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Santiago makes the team

One more piece of the roster puzzle is in place. Infielder Ramon Santiago, a non-roster invite to camp, has been told by the Reds that he has made the team and will go north.

Reds manager Bryan Price said that it doesn’t mean players like Kristopher Negron haven’t made it and that there are other spots still open for competition. Santiago will earn $1.1 million this season in the big leagues.

One reason the 34-year-old Santiago was picked was that he’s a veteran who has come off of the bench before in Detroit and Seattle. It’s a harder role for a younger player, according to Price. There were several other reasons too.

“When our season got over, we looked at our club and felt like we needed to have that type of a player,” Price said. “Ramon has been in a tough spot as a big leaguer, as a utility infielder. He’s a guy that doesn’t put up big offensive numbers but does a lot of the little things to help you win games. Especially in the National League, if you’re in a double switch situation – especially if it involves [Zack] Cozart – you’d like to have a reliable sure-handed infielder that really could go anyplace. And he’s a good situational offensive player. He’s not going to drive in a lot of runs or hit home runs but he moves runners, he bunts well. He’s a scrappy guy with two strikes, puts the ball in play. He knows how to play the situational game and that’s very important. And he’s guy that can not play for a while and you still get a nice performance from him.”

There has not been any corresponding 40-man roster move made to make room for Santiago, yet.

More to come on MLB.com/Reds.com.

3/26 Reds at White Sox

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Cueto feels good, ready

In five-plus innings with Class A Bakersfield, Johnny Cueto allowed six earned runs and seven hits with one walk and 11 strikeouts. He threw 89 pitches, including 59 for strikes. Four of the runs and five of the hits came in the first inning before Cueto settled into a groove against Indians high-A hitters.

“I’m happy today. I threw everything fine,” Cueto said. “I’m ready to go for the season.”

I’m not a pitching coach, but Cueto looked pretty good to me. He was throwing 90-93 but hit 94 mph a couple of times. He didn’t seem to labor, even during a long first inning.

The guy who is the pitching coach was pleased with what he saw.

“The main thing was that he felt great and he felt healthy and he felt strong,” Reds pitching coach Jeff Pico said. “That was No. 1 on my list. He went in and out of his rotation a little bit early, getting lateral a little bit, but corrected that as the game went on and threw some really good pitches today.”

More to come on MLB.com/Reds.com.

Mesoraco swinging again

I’ve got some morning items for you. I won’t be covering the game vs. the A’s and hanging back to watch Johnny Cueto pitch in a Minor League game here in Goodyear this afternoon.

UPDATE – Cueto to get five innings/80 pitches today for Class A Bakersfield vs. the Indians’ high-A club.

*Catcher Devin Mesoraco (strained left oblique) took 50 swings this morning and felt OK.

“Thirty off the tee and 20 from soft toss,” said Mesoraco, who strained his oblique on March 19. “I want to say I was swinging around 75 percent of what I normally do. It’s probably better than the 120 percent I usually swing. Everything felt good. I think it was a good step. I want to say there’s still a little bit of tiredness or weakness in that area but it’s not as isolated as what it was and it’s definitely not a pulling or pain thing. We’ve been working it pretty hard so it’s a little worn out.”

Mesoraco took 30 swings on Monday and feels he’s progressing. It’s not clear yet if he can avoid the DL to begin the season. He hasn’t played a game since March 17.

“We’re getting down to it here and we’re pretty close. We’ll see,” Mesoraco said. “It’s going to be close either way. It’s getting better. That’s all I’m concerned with right now. It’s a lot of steps in the right direction.”

*Manager Bryan Price said that if Mesoraco gets into games this week, they would be on the Minor League side. That could mean he won’t play the Reds exhibition games at Pensacola and Louisville on Friday and Saturday and could hang back here in Arizona to get at-bats. If Mesoraco had to begin on the DL, Price said that Tucker Barnhart would be a possibility to be called up. Barnhart is on the 40-man roster and Corky Miller is not.

*Price threw out the possibility that Alfredo Simon could be a bullpen option instead of the fifth starter. Brett Marshall could be the fifth man, especially since he’s on the roster. Jeff Francis is a non-roster pitcher but has the experience. Francis is starting vs. Oakland today.

*Ramon Santiago, normally an infielder, played left field in the game vs. Cleveland yesterday.

“The last time he played was in winter league in the Dominican,” Price said. “It’s been a while. But again, his job as a utility player is to be able to give us options. He’s a good athlete. He’s got good hand-eye coordination. He throws well enough. He’s just a baseball player. I just thought it made sense to get him out there for a game or two to make sure that he’s somewhat comfortable out there if we get to that point.”

3/25 Reds at A’s

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25-man roster predictions

The Reds’ 25-man roster is less easier to predict than I would have expected when I landed in Arizona on Feb. 13. I certainly didn’t expect Spring Training to be incident-free and I was keenly aware that anything could happen at any time. On the other hand, who expects Aroldis Chapman to be struck in the face by a line drive? Who can expect Skip Schumaker’s glove to get caught in the grass and dislocate his shoulder?

Predicting the 25-man roster is somewhat easier than the ramifications of what happens to the 40-man roster if/when non-roster players make the club. With one week to go before Opening Day vs. the Cardinals, I am taking my best shot at picking the 25-man roster you will see lined up at Great American Ball Park before the game.

Catchers (2): Devin Mesoraco*, Brayan Pena (*if his strained oblique is OK)

Infielders (6): 1B Joey Votto, 2B Brandon Phillips, SS Zack Cozart, 3B Todd Frazier, 1B/3B Neftali Soto, INF Kristopher Negron*

(*I picked Negron over Santiago and Nelson not only because he had a strong finish to spring, but also because of the fact he is the most versatile of the three contenders. He can play almost every position, including shortstop and center field. Nelson would be my very close second choice.)

Outfielders (5): LF Ryan Ludwick, CF Billy Hamilton, RF Jay Bruce, OF Chris Heisey, OF Roger Bernadina

Rotation (5): Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, Tony Cingrani, Alfredo Simon

Bullpen (7): Sam LeCure, J.J. Hoover, Manny Parra, Logan Ondrusek, Nick Christiani, Brett Marshall*, Pedro Beato*

(*Cases could easily be made for Jumbo Diaz and Trevor Bell to get the final two spots. Roster issues come into play, especially if they already add non-roster players like Negron and Bernadina. It would be tough to add two more non-roster pitchers like Diaz and Bell, especially if Jonathan Broxton and Mat Latos are going to be ready sooner than later. Brett Marshall gets a spot also for his good spring and because he can be a long reliever in the early part of the season.)

Disabled list (6): Chapman, Latos, Broxton, Sean Marshall, Skip Schumaker, Jack Hannahan.

Bailey, Latos in Minor League games

On the backfields in Minor League games at the Reds complex Monday, Homer Bailey and Mat Latos each made starts.

For Triple-A Louisville, Bailey (strained right groin) threw 76 pitches in five innings and reported feeling mostly good. He said there was some cramping during a fifth inning where he got hit some, but it wasn’t alarming.

“I don’t know how much you can expect the first time out after taking some time off,” Bailey said. “I did feel kind mechanically a little off from just not being on the mound and stuff. Physically, I felt all right.”

For Double-A Pensacola, Latos (left knee, right elbow surgeries) threw 43 pitches in three innings.

“The elbow feels great. The knee, I don’t feel anything,” Latos said. “The velocity was there with me not trying to let it go. It’s Spring Training, so who cares? The velocity was there, the curveball was there, the slider was there. I can’t complain with anything. I feel strong. I feel ready to go.”

Also pitching in a game for Pensacola, Jonathan Broxton (right forearm surgery) threw 13 pitches over one inning in his third spring outing.

More to come on MLB.com/Reds.com later…

3/24 Reds vs. Indians

Also today on the Minor League side… Homer Bailey to throw five innings for Louisville. Mat Latos slated for three innings for Pensacola and Jonathan Broxton to follow Latos.

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Chapman visits Reds clubhouse

I will have more on MLB.com in a story shortly — but Aroldis Chapman dropped by the Reds clubhouse on Sunday. To be honest, I was stunned by how good he looked under the circumstances. He had some black eyes and a puffy nose. Thankfully, he did not look like he was smacked in the face by a line drive and needed surgery on his skull.

Visiting the Reds clubhouse on Sunday afternoon, Chapman had the appearance of a boxer who just finished 12 rounds in the ring. In reality, the lefty was the victim of a line drive to the face vs. the Royals on Wednesday night who needed surgery the following day to repair fractures above the left eye and nose. A metal plate was inserted to stabilize the injury.

“To be honest with you, I feel really good. I feel a lot better than I thought I was going to be,” said Chapman via translator and assistant trainer Tomas Vera.

Chapman was discharged from a Phoenix hospital on Saturday. Here are a couple of the things he said:

“I wasn’t thinking about nothing there. It was so quick,” Chapman said of when he was hit by the Salvador Perez line drive. “It was something you don’t have a chance to think about. At the time it was happening, I was conscious the whole time. I never lost consciousness. I knew what was going on. I was worried about what would happen. My face started to get bigger and I was thinking ‘what happened? What’s going to be the consequence of this?’ I was able to recognize and know what was going on with my surroundings.”

Are you surprised how good you look considering?

“I feel surprised, like you, yes, I can’t believe it,” Chapman said. “After I watched the video, and I have been watching the video, repeating it many, many, many times and every time that I see it I feel really happy because this could be something worse. The way how I am right now, the way how I feel I’m in no pain. I have no pain at all. How I’ve been progressing with has been great for me.”

UPDATE: Reds manager Bryan Price was glad Chapman could visit. The club did not know that he would be coming over until about 15 minutes before game time.

“It was great to see him. He was in good spirits,” Price said. “He’s been through a lot, quite a bit beyond the incident itself.

“I think it probably meant a lot to come back into the clubhouse and a lot of the guys on the team visited him in the hospital and brought him food and sat with him and talked to him. It was good to have him back.”

3/23 Reds vs. Brewers

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