Reds skipper, players on club's championship goal

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Joey Votto came in from batting practice on his first day back to Reds camp after playing for his native Canada in the first round of the World Baseball Classic. He sat down at his locker and watched as Puerto Rico played the United States.

As happy as he was to be back with his regular Major League team, a part of him was still getting over the disappointment of being knocked out of the tournament.

"I wish I was playing the game we're watching right now," Votto said. "I was proud to play with the team I played with, Team Canada, and I was lucky to be a part of the tournament and thankful that I was healthy enough to be a part of it, and I wish the rest of the teams the best of luck."

It was a wild ride for the Canadian team. The club was mercy-ruled in its first game against Italy, but came back strong to beat Mexico in a game marred by a ninth-inning fracas. Team Canada played the U.S. on Sunday for the right to advance to Miami, and it was a close game until the late innings, when the Americans pulled away.

Votto said the quick escalation of intensity from a regular spring camp to an all-out battle for national pride was a perfect test for a player who missed 51 games last year becaue of arthroscopic knee surgery.

"I think it was really good for me personally," Votto said. "I think it helped remind me of what I need to prepare for, what the feeling is like on a daily basis. It was good to be challenged physically, to play 18 straight innings, longer games, getting all the at-bats in. I think it was good, and it reminded me that I've got a good bit to go.

"Thankfully I got to test the waters there, and hopefully get back to work and get ready for April 1."

That sounds good to manager Dusty Baker, who had already penciled in Votto as his No. 3 hitter for Tuesday's Cactus League game against the Dodgers.

"Joey said he felt good playing nine innings," Baker said. "He said his stroke was a little off, which is to be expected right now. He played for his country. That was the right thing to do, and now it's time to come play with us."

Prior makes first spring appearance

Prior chats with MLB Network about possible comeback

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Mark Prior, the most well-known pitcher in Minor League camp with the Reds, had a productive Tuesday morning, making his first appearance in a game this spring.

It was the first time Prior had pitched to hitters since last season for Triple-A Pawtucket. The Red Sox released him in August after Prior pitched to a 3.96 ERA with 38 strikeouts and 23 walks in 25 innings.

Now the former Cubs phenom, who hasn't pitched in the Major Leagues since 2007 and signed his Minor League deal after speaking with his former manager, Dusty Baker, is back at it earlier than he has been in years.

Prior looked good Tuesday, starting for Triple-A Louisville against Double-A Pensacola on Field 4 and getting three outs so fast (nine pitches) that he threw to another batter just to get to his desired pitch count of 15. He struck out two batters and threw 14 strikes.

"It was a good start," Prior said. "I was a little up in the zone early, but down later. I'm not going to put too much importance on one outing, but I'm already doing certain things better than I was doing at any point last year, and that's encouraging."

Prior was consistently at 90 mph and reached 91 with his fastball.

"The key is the spread between the fastball and the curveball, and it was at about 10 mph, which is what I want," Prior said. "I'm happy with it overall."

Reds trim 12 from big league camp

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Reds made a slew of roster moves on Tuesday, with 12 players leaving Major League camp and 44 remaining.

Left-hander Tony Cingrani and right-hander Daniel Corcino were optioned to Triple-A Louisville, right-handers Kyle Lotzkar and Josh Ravin were optioned to Double-A Pensacola, right-hander Carlos Contreras and outfielder Yorman Rodriguez were optioned to Class A Bakersfield and left-hander Ismael Guillon was optioned to Class A Dayton.

Right-handers Nick Christiani and Chad Rogers, catcher Nevin Ashley, infielder Kristopher Negron and outfielder Ryan LaMarre were reassigned to Minor League camp.

Worth noting

• Starters Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman threw in Minor League games as the rest of the team took the day off on Monday, and both fared well. Leake, pitching against Louisville, threw three scoreless innings and got through it in 46 pitches. Chapman also pitched three innings of shutout ball, throwing 47 pitches against Pensacola.

• Baker said that some of the positional battles remain too close to call. He mentioned the backup-infielder job being contested by Jason Donald, Emmanuel Burriss and Cesar Izturis and the backup-catcher job, which is likely down to Devin Mesoraco and veteran Miguel Olivo. "It's a real tough decision," Baker said.