Belisle sent to minors; Fogg to return to Reds rotation

CINCINNATI -- Right-hander Matt Belisle is headed back to the minors and back to the bullpen.

The Cincinnati Reds sent Belisle to Triple-A Louisville on Thursday to pitch in relief, a role he had two years ago. Right-hander Josh Fogg moves back into the rotation and will start Saturday against Atlanta.

The Reds also activated left-hander Kent Mercker off the 15-day disabled list. The 40-year-old reliever had been sidelined since May 9 with a sore back.

Belisle was in the competition for the final spot in the rotation during spring training, until a sore forearm sidelined him the final week. He came off the disabled list on April 21 and went 1-4 with a 7.28 earned-run average in six starts.

The 27-year-old pitcher has been one of the organization's enigmas. He tends to do well in the early innings and then come apart when hitters face him a second time in the game. He also lets one mistake lead to a series of them.

The Reds have tried him as both a starter and reliever during his career -- 43 starts, 89 relief appearances -- without finding his niche.

"He throws strikes," manager Dusty Baker said. "He has guts and he has determination. The trouble here a little bit was the second and third time through the order. As a reliever, you won't get to that second and third time around."

Asked how Belisle took the news, Baker said, "He wasn't happy about it. You don't expect him to be happy about it. He knows he's just got to get it done."

Fogg piled up a 13.09 ERA in his three starts, earning a demotion to the bullpen on April 19. As a long reliever, he went 15 days without appearing in a game. Fogg has made seven relief appearances, giving up nine earned runs in 14 innings.

Neither Baker nor Fogg knows what to expect from him on Saturday because he hasn't thrown many pitches out of the bullpen.

"I've always had a pretty resilient arm," Fogg said. "I don't think I'll throw 115 pitches, but I'll try to be efficient to stay out there as long as I can."

Fogg signed a $1.5 million, one-year deal with the Reds in February to fill out their rotation. He figured he would be in the bullpen indefinitely after the demotion.

"Honestly, I was just as surprised as everybody else was," Fogg said of the switch on Thursday. "When you're sitting down in the 'pen for the last month and a few weeks and there's been no mention of starting any games, you don't foresee it sneaking up on you like this."