Votto, from Toronto, hadn't played since July 15 because of damaged cartilage in the knee that required two operations. He had a rehab stint in Class A Dayton and Triple-A Louisville last week.
Votto wasn't in the lineup for a game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday. The 2010 NL MVP said the knee is getting better, but he's not ready to play every day.
"I think working me in slowly is the wise move," Votto said. "It's not 100 per cent yet, but that will come in time."
Manager Dusty Baker said Votto could start a day game Wednesday that concludes the series against Philadelphia. There was no hurry to get Votto back in the lineup — the Reds led the NL Central by 8 1/2 games on Tuesday, the biggest lead in the majors.
Cincinnati went 32-16 after Votto went on the disabled list.
"The plan's going to change every day, depending on how he feels," manager Dusty Baker said. "As of right now, he'll probably start tomorrow. Then we've got to watch him if there's a long inning or whatever, if he gets sore or makes a wrong move. We're going to try to preserve him and work him back in there."
Votto went 2 for 11 during his rehab stint last week. He'd hoped to get on base more so he could see how the knee held up when he ran the bases.
Votto was batting .342 with 14 homers and 49 RBIs when he went on the disabled list. The idea is to get him as close to 100 per cent as he can be heading into October.
"I don't think I'll see 100 per cent until sometime in the off-season," Votto said. "I'm talking about being able to play baseball, putting myself in uncomfortable positions. I would like to think I'll be able to get through all the games and recover as we move through September and all the way to the end of October."
Votto was looking forward to seeing how fans reacted the first time he came to bat at Great American Ball Park.
"I'm really excited to see the fans reaction," Votto said. "That's what I'm most curious about. I miss them. I love the support. I love playing in front of the fans in this ballpark."
In other moves, the Reds recalled right-handers Todd Redmond and Pedro Villarreal from Triple-A Louisville, called up left-hander Tony Cingrani from Double-A Pensacola, and outrighted infielder Chris Valaika and right-hander Jordan Smith to Louisville.