Notes: No. 5 remains undecided
Belisle may have edge over Saarloos to make Reds' rotation
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Reds manager Jerry Narron will not yet say who his club's fifth starter will be when needed on April 8.
"There are about 1,000 different things that go into the decision," Narron said. "It will be decided from who pitched well this spring, to who matches up [with opponents], to what happens during the course of the month, to who we want to go 1, 2, 3, 4."
The first two starters are set, with Aaron Harang starting Opening Day and Bronson Arroyo starting the second game.
Eric Milton and Kyle Lohse have been slotted as the Nos. 3 and 4 starters, in no particular order. They will both pitch in Dayton on Saturday.
Kirk Saarloos and Matt Belisle pitched on Friday, with Belisle getting the start -- a possible indication of what the club is thinking.
On Thursday, Saarloos was listed as Friday's starter, but Belisle got the start instead.
"They didn't tell me if I was starting," Belisle said. "I just assumed I was, but I didn't know for sure until I got here."
Belisle planned to pitch three innings, but was removed after 2 2/3 innings with two runners on base. Saarloos allowed a single to B.J. Upton, with the third run charged to Belisle, but that was the only hit he allowed in his 2 1/3 innings.
"It was one of those days that I felt like I was going against the grain," Belisle said. "There were a lot of foul balls, and I was just missing. Whether you are just missing or not, you're still missing."
Belisle thinks about being the fifth starter and definiltely covets the role, but he is trying not to think about it.
"If I was guessing, I'd guess that I'd be the fifth starter," Belisle said when pressed. "It is just a guess, though -- the decision is theirs. I can do both, and I'm willing to do both, but they know I'm excited about being a starter."
Both pitchers have starting experience, and both have worked out of the bullpen in the past.
Belisle has started seven Major League games and relieved in 89 others. Saarloos has 69 starts to his credit and 54 relief appearances.
Disabled list grows: Norris Hopper, who competed for a roster spot as an extra outfielder, was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday and will not accompany the team to Cincinnati.
Hopper, who won the International League batting title last season, jammed his right heel into the right-field wall in Lakeland on March 19.
He has been limited to batting practice since then.
Hopper's chief competitor for the extra outfield slot, Chris Denorfia, will have Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery on Tuesday to repair ligaments in his right arm.
One of the two was likely to make the team until the injuries occurred.
The last roster spot may now be filled by either catcher Chad Moeller or non-roster outfielder DeWayne Wise, who has drawn praise from Narron for his defensive skills.
Both were among the 28 players travelling to Cincinnati when the bus left at 4:40 p.m. ET on Friday.
The irony for Wise is that he was a virtual lock to make the team out of Spring Training last season, but a severely sprained ankle crushed his dreams. He was indecisive on a slide during a night game in St. Petersburg and missed two months. It was the same place during a night game in which Denorfia tore his ligaments on a throw to home plate.
Moeller, a five-year veteran, could provide depth for the Reds. Javier Valentin, the backup catcher to David Ross, can play first base. Scott Hatteberg's backup at first base, Jeff Conine, can play the corner outfield positions.
Moeller started Friday's game against Tampa Bay, and Wise was used as a reserve.
The Reds will take 27 players to Cincinnati, including non-roster players Victor Santos and Dustin Hermanson. The 40-man roster is at 39, leaving room for one of them.
Fear strikes out: The Dream will soon come true.
Josh Hamilton is set to make his Major League debut eight years after being the first selection in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft by the Devil Rays.
The "can't-miss" prospect very nearly missed and by a wide, self-destructive margin.
Substance abuse cost Hamilton three full years of playing time, but this spring, he has shown the skills that made him the highly touted prospect he once was.
Hamilton will make the trip with the Reds after hitting .397 through Friday. He demonstrated speed and a strong throwing arm, including two assists against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday and a spectacular assist against the Boston Red Sox in a March 26 game broadcast nationally on TV.
"It is a dream come true," said Hamilton, who is subjected to drug tests three times a week. "I'm excited, but it won't sink in until I get [to Cincinnati], see the ballpark and hit on Sunday. But who knows? It feels really comfortable right now."
Hamilton was observed signing autographs every day on his way to the Ed Smith Stadium dugout this spring.
His story has captured the interest of writers from all of the teams the Reds played this spring. Former players have asked about it and followed the story.
"It helps to know people are interested," Hamilton said. "The positive encouragement makes me feel good."
Hamilton and Reds slugger Adam Dunn once worked out together in Bradenton.
"He was the best baseball player I've ever seen," Dunn said, who has played next to Ken Griffey Jr. for the last five seasons.
Hamilton has recently been mistaken for Dunn at a local restaurant.
"It's funny -- at Chik-fil-A one day, a fan came up to me and asked me if I was Adam Dunn," Hamilton said. "I told him, 'No, but I know him,'" Hamilton said.
Hamilton showed Dunn his team ID card that was handed out prior to Friday's game to show the resemblance.
"You are a good-looking guy," Dunn said.
Sick bay: Reds third baseman Edwin Encarnacion was in the starting lineup on Friday but was scratched with flu-like symptoms. Juan Castro replaced Encarnacion in the lineup.
Gary Schatz is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.