CINCINNATI -- As the Reds seek to improve their starting pitching, much speculation has involved whether the club will part with prospect and top trade chip Yonder Alonso.
"It doesn't bother me at all. It's rumors," Alonso said Friday during Redsfest. "I'll take it for what it is. I don't think about it too much or read it. One day you're in Toronto and the other you're in Tampa. Obviously right now I am in Cincinnati and this is where I want to be. I want to be play here. I have a lot of friends here and I don't want to leave at all."
As of Friday, there were still 78 days until Reds Spring Training opens but Alonso was already looking lean and ready to get started. The 24-year-old, who was directed to shed some weight as he prepared to compete for the Reds' left-field spot, has dropped about 18 pounds.
"I've been working really hard," said Alonso, who hired a workout trainer and a chef to cook healthy meals. "Ever since I went home, I started doing my thing. So far, it's been working out. I start on Monday with my outfield stuff. I started my hitting last week. It's going to be fun."
Alonso also recovered quickly from arthroscopic surgery to clean out his knee and healed from a sore ankle that cut his 2011 season a little short in late September.
In 47 games after his July callup to the big leagues, Alonso batted .330 with five home runs and 15 RBIs. He also had to adjust to playing left field, which wasn't always smooth, but he showed improvement as he got more comfortable.
Team awards announced at Redsfest
CINCINNATI -- Reds players and prospects were handed some team awards for their efforts during the 2011 season.
Joey Votto was the winner of the Ernie Lombardi Award as the Reds' most valuable player. Johnny Cueto won the Johnny Vander Meer Award as the team's most outstanding pitcher. Pitcher Bronson Arroyo was named as the Joe Nuxhall Good Guy Award winner. Class A Dayton shortstop Billy Hamilton won the Chief Bender Award as the Minor League player of the year.
The awards are given annually by the Cincinnati chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. They were announced and presented during Redsfest on Friday night.
Votto, 28, batted .309 with 29 home runs, 103 RBIs and a league-leading .416 on-base percentage in 2011.
Although he was slowed by injuries at the very beginning and end of this past season, Cueto evolved into the staff ace. The 25-year-old right-hander was 9-5 with a 2.31 ERA in 24 starts. In 156 innings, he walked 47 and struck out 104.
For the 20-year-old Hamilton, it was an electric season in Dayton, where he overcame a slow start to bat .278 with an organization and Midwest League record 103 stolen bases.
In other awards, Dayton's Josh Smith was named the Minor League pitcher of the year and Triple-A Louisville outfielder Denis Phipps was the Minor League hitter of the year. Dayton reliever Drew Hayes won the Minor League community service award.
Cozart ready to begin baseball activity
CINCINNATI -- Reds rookie shortstop Zack Cozart was happy to be at Redsfest but he couldn't be blamed for wanting to return to Arizona as fast as possible. Cozart was cleared to resume full baseball activity starting Monday.
On July 23, Cozart suffered a season-ending left elbow injury during a collision with a runner at second base. Originally diagnosed as a hyperextension, he required Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament.
"It's been rehab for three months ever since the season ended," Cozart said. "Every day, just elbow, elbow, elbow. Finally I get to do baseball -- swinging, fielding, throwing. I'm basically full go. It's a process."
A promising start to his big league career was halted by the injury after just 11 games. He batted .307 with two home runs and three RBIs and put himself on the inside track to be the regular shortstop in 2012.
Cozart will be working out at the Reds' facility in Goodyear, Ariz.
"I'll be beyond 100 percent come Spring Training, proving I am healthy and proving that I think the job should be mine," Cozart said.
During a question-and-answer session with fans, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty revealed he plans to meet with Brandon Phillips' agents Monday at the Winter Meetings in Dallas. Phillips has been seeking a contract extension.
A Redsfest tradition Friday included the Kids Q&A session with players Chris Heisey, Drew Stubbs, Cozart and Alonso. Before it got underway, new MLB.com youth reporter Meggie Zahneis was introduced to the kids. Zeinheis will be covering the Reds and baseball at large for MLB.com this season.
One of the celebrities to partake in the Redsfest celebrity home run derby was Oscar-nominated actress Mariel Hemingway. During a break, Hemingway posed for pictures with several players, including Jay Bruce and Phillips.