CINCINNATI -- Reds infielder Chris Valaika's hopes to compete for a roster spot next spring improved this weekend when he was cleared to start running and throwing by the medical staff.Valaika suffered a completely torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a game vs. the Rockies on Sept. 11. Getting to start more advanced activity was a boost for the 26-year-old's morale. "It's been a grind. The first part of the rehab is slow and pretty monotonous not being able to get outside and feel human," Valaika said while at Redsfest. "My offseason is starting and I'm getting myself ready for the season instead of just doing rehab." In 14 games over two big league stints with the Reds this past season, Valaika batted .280 (7-for-25) and made seven starts. He batted .261 with seven homers and 37 RBIs at Triple-A Louisville. Valaika previously tore the same ACL while in college and was more comfortable with the rehab work this time. "I'm a little bit more familiar. I don't have to be as cautious," he said. "The trainers are doing a great job with me, but I also know what to expect. When they tell me something, I jump in with both feet instead of asking questions and being nervous about it." Valaika hoped to be cleared to begin hitting in the next few weeks. He's been working out in Arizona with teammate Zack Cozart, who is rehabbing from elbow and ankle surgeries. "We've been hanging out a lot there together," Valaika said. "It's as close to home as we'll get this year."
Leake striving to make longer run in 2012
CINCINNATI -- In his first two big league seasons, Reds starting pitcher Mike Leake finished early because of a cap on his innings. He's hopeful of going much deeper in 2012."I don't tend to set goals, but if I were to, I'd like to get to 30 starts and 200 innings," Leake said on Saturday during Redsfest. Leake, 24, was 12-9 with a 3.86 ERA in 29 games including 26 starts this past season. He led the club in wins and with 118 strikeouts and worked 167 2/3 innings. He pitched 138 1/3 innings as a rookie in 2010. This offseason, Leake is already working out and has built a gym inside the garage of his Phoenix-area home. "I felt strong last year coming off of the end of the year," Leake said. "I'm sticking to the same routine. I'm throwing about a half a month earlier this time. Last year ended with a little bit of tightness."
Jocketty says Reds covet backup to Cozart
CINCINNATI -- In what's become an annual Redsfest tradition, general manager Walt Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker were on the main stage peppered with questions during a Hot Stove question and answer session with fans.On Saturday, Jocketty revealed the Reds are looking around for a veteran shortstop/infielder to back up rookie Zack Cozart. The club was high on free agent Ramon Santiago, who re-signed with the Tigers recently. "Those are the types of guys we are looking for," Jocketty said. The Reds still have a wide open situation for a closer, with incumbent Francisco Cordero still on the free agent market. "We're going to look in-house. We're going to look at trades or free agents and try to come up with a guy, a main guy," Baker said. "The one thing we don't want to do is have a closer by committee." Jocketty and Baker will depart for Dallas and the Winter Meetings on Sunday. Jocketty is hoping there will be a lot of activity for his club. "We've spent a lot of time the last month or so just preparing for it and had a lot of conversations with other clubs and some agents for free agents," Jocketty said. "I have a couple of meetings scheduled for [Sunday] already. It's hard to predict what's going to happen. Usually when we get into the same building, it tends to move a little bit quicker."