SARASOTA, Fla. -- Starting pitcher Bobby Livingston put up great numbers this spring, but got squeezed out by the numbers game.

Despite a strong bid for the Reds' fifth starter spot, Livingston learned Thursday he was optioned to Triple-A Louisville. That left Kirk Saarloos and Matt Belisle as the remaining two candidates for the No. 5 starter spot.

"It's obviously disappointing," Livingston said. "What are you going to do? That's the politics of baseball. You take the bad with the good and good with the bad."

It was a tough call. Livingston was 0-0 with a 1.23 ERA in five games, including three starts. The 24-year-old lefty, who was claimed off waivers from Seattle this winter, allowed just two earned runs in 14 2/3 innings with two walks and 12 strikeouts.

Belisle, who has a 2.08 ERA this spring, appears to have the edge. That's partially because Saarloos will make the team as either as the fifth starter or a long reliever. He has a 5.02 ERA because he had one bad outing this spring.

"We are excited by the way Livingston has pitched," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "He was outstanding this spring. For a guy taken on a waiver claim, for our guys to recommend him and pick him up like that, that's just outstanding scouting. He's been very, very impressive."

Livingston's numbers compared far more favorably than fellow lefty Eric Milton (6.59 ERA), who was already locked into either the third or fourth spot. But there was little chance of Livingston displacing Milton, who is making $9 million this season. Milton is also an experienced veteran while Livingston has only three big-league games under his belt without a win.

Teams rarely get through a season using their five original starters. If Livingston keeps throwing well in Louisville, he'll be on the short list of potential callups when there's a need.

"It's exciting and gives us a lot of confidence to know we'll have a guy at Triple-A that's going to be pitching for us," Narron said. "It looks like he's big league ready."

Livingston understood the situation and appreciated knowing he made a great impression with the decision-makers.

"I try to take everything in stride," Livingston said. "I'm still just 24 years old. For them to say what they said in there meant a lot to me. I know what they think of me.

"Obviously, I wish I could have broke with the team and be a Cincinnati Red from the get-go. The Lord works everything out in his time. The tough part is being patient. I'm not a very patient person."

Livingston will start Saturday's game vs. the Blue Jays at Dunedin, but the bulk of the big-league club will be in Dayton, Ohio, for a game against the Marlins.

Majewski sent out: In an expected move, reliever Gary Majewski was also optioned to Louisville. Majewski missed most of camp with a sore right shoulder. He returned Monday, and in two games, has thrown two scoreless innings with two walks.

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The right-hander was sent down, rather than placed on the disabled list, since a Minor League rehab assignment is limited to 30 days for a pitcher. Right now, Majewski can only throw every other day.

"It's good business," Majewski said. "I have an option left and they exercised the right to use it. My arm is just starting to get loose. My velocity is coming up a little bit each time I go out. I don't want it to go up each time. I want it to stabilize."

"I was excited to see him pitch the last couple of times out like he has," Narron said. "It looked like he had more arm speed and the ball was coming out of his hand better than it did last year."

Hot spring: Second baseman Brandon Phillips has looked ready to start the season for some time now. Phillips is batting .349 (22-for-63) with a club leading six home runs and 12 RBIs.

With a sixth-inning two-run home run off Jesse Crain in the Reds' 10-2 loss vs. the Twins, Phillips has hit safely in 17 of his 21 games.

"It's Spring Training, it doesn't matter what you hit," said Phillips, who was 1-for-3 in the game. "You could hit .100 in Spring Training, and the next thing you know, you have a great season. It's getting ready for the season, that's it. I'm just seeing the ball well right now. I hope I can take it into the season and some positive things can happen. I'm very happy with the spring that I'm having."

Assuming everyone stays healthy, Phillips will hit third in the Reds' regular lineup. It will be his first time batting in the key middle portion of the order, and he welcomed the challenge.

"I'm happy with hitting third," Phillips said. "I hit third before, when I was in the Minors. I just concentrate more when I hit third. If I'm between [Ken] Griffey and [Adam] Dunn, or whatever, it's more RBI opportunities for me. When people are on base, I think I concentrate more. I need it to be like that every time I go up there, though. You just focus a little harder when the game is on the line and you need to get that runner in. I think everything will be all right."

Freel rests: Center fielder Ryan Freel was rested for a second straight game. Freel remains sore following a head-on collision with the fence Tuesday vs. the Phillies. Like Wednesday, Josh Hamilton got the start in Freel's place.

Was the hard-charging Freel being kept out for his own good?.

"It's for the wall's own good," Freel joked.

RBI program: Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) is returning to youth baseball fields in Cincinnati this spring. It was formed via a partnership between the Reds Community Fund, Cincinnati public schools and the Boys & Girls Club of greater Cincinnati.

The league will feature six teams from Cincinnati public schools. Tryouts for the teams were held the first week of March, and teams begin play this week and will play a 10-game schedule with a city tournament scheduled for the first week of May. The Reds Community Fund and Boys & Girls Clubs received $20,000 in grants for the RBI program from the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, the U.S. Department of Justice and Major League Baseball.

Coming up: Friday will mark the Reds' final day in Sarasota. It will be spent hosting the Devil Rays at 1:05 p.m. ET. Saarloos will get another chance to audition for the fifth spot while Tampa Bay scheduled Jae Seo to start.