Cabrera, Contreras first September callups

Righty Axelrod designated for assignment

Cabrera, Contreras first September callups

CHICAGO -- Even though he was aware that rosters were expanding for September callups, catcher Ramon Cabrera didn't see this coming. Cabrera, along with reliever Carlos Contreras were promoted from Triple-A Louisville before Tuesday's 5-4 loss to the Cubs.

"I felt surprised, first," Cabrera said. "I almost cried and then I called my mom. I also called all of my family in Venezuela. They were so happy and very proud of me. I've been working hard every day and kept my head down. That's what got me here."

It was still a long road for the 25-year-old Cabrera to get his first big league callup. He first signed with the Pirates organization out of Venezuela in 2008. He was traded to the Tigers in '12 and claimed off of waivers by the Pirates again in '14. The Reds signed him to a Minor League contract in December and invited him to Spring Training.

A switch-hitter, Cabrera batted .290/.343/.353 with two home runs and 35 RBIs in 86 games for Louisville -- his first full year at the Triple-A level.

"You never know when it's going to be the big opportunity. Now it's here," said Cabrera, who brought his mother, Tibisay, to Chicago for the occasion.

To make room for Cabrera on the 40-man roster, the Reds announced that right-handed pitcher Dylan Axelrod was designated for assignment.

Axelrod escapes jam

Cabrera was surprised he was promoted since he wasn't on the 40-man roster and didn't play much at Spring Training. But the organization was paying attention to his performance and added him as depth behind Brayan Pena and Tucker Barnhart.

"He did a wonderful job for us," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He handled the pitching staff very well. This is his first time ever in the big leagues so we're excited for him for that, but he was a performer also. We really want to reward performance."

This is Contreras' third big league stint this season, matching his total from 2014. In 12 games for the Reds, he posted a 6.08 ERA with nine runs, 11 hits, nine walks and three homers in 13 1/3 innings. But In 31 games for Louisville, he was 2-2 with a 2.95 ERA and three saves.

"He's one of those guys that's achieved in the Minor Leagues and has really earned the opportunity to come up here in September and support what we're trying to do here," Price said. "I wish that was the case for everybody. Coming to the big leagues should be a reward for performance, not just to fill roster spots or be used as emergency players. We need to continue to stockpile players that perform through the system and earn their way up here through performance."

The Reds will be making additional callups, either based on need, or when the seasons at Louisville and Double-A Pensacola wrap up. Many of the players added will likely be pitchers, especially some of the rookies nearing their innings limits.

"So that September workload can be handled a little bit easier," Price said.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.