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01/26/12 1:29 PM EST

Latos stops in Cincinnati to meet new 'mates

CINCINNATI -- A man used to living on West Coast time, Mat Latos was still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes early Thursday while trying to get to know his new working environment.

The new Reds starting pitcher flew across the country just to be at the team's caravan kickoff at Great American Ball Park. Keep in mind that Latos didn't go on of one the buses motoring across the region, but he wanted to be around to meet some players, CEO Bob Castellini, general manager Walt Jocketty and members of the front office.

It was Jocketty who extended the invitation. Latos spent several minutes talking privately with Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips and also introduced himself to rookie catcher Devin Mesoraco. Later, he had a private chat with Castellini in his office.

"Everybody has been extremely excited to have me here and extremely nice. I'm excited to be here," Latos said.

In mid-December, the Reds traded first baseman Yonder Alonso, catching prospect Yasmani Grandal, reliever Brad Boxberger and former rotation ace Edinson Volquez to the Padres to get Latos. He is expected to slot behind ace Johnny Cueto and be Cincinnati's No. 2 starter.

Latos, and his wife, Dallas, arrived to town late Wednesday night from San Diego and only got a couple of hours of sleep. They planned to be in Cincinnati for less than 24 hours before flying back to California.

"I don't want to walk into Spring Training and feel like the odd man out, with weird looks when everybody first gets there," Latos said. "I just wanted to get in and know what to expect."

Latos, who has been to Great American Ball Park as a visiting player with the Padres, knows he would be pitching in a vastly different stadium than his old home park, San Diego's spacious Petco Park. He doesn't plan to adjust his style to pitch in Cincinnati, which has been a home run haven for hitters.

"My first couple of years in the big leagues, it was me pitching to my strengths and pitching to hitters' weaknesses. That's not going to change," Latos said. "I'm excited about the ballpark. It being a hitters' ballpark, and Petco being a pitchers' ballpark, they said it's going to be a big change. It's a challenge. I'll take this challenge head on. I look forward to pitching in this ballpark."

Phillips not worried about contract situation

CINCINNATI -- As he has every winter since his 2006 trade to the Reds, second baseman Brandon Phillips hopped on a bus for the team's annual caravan across the region on Thursday.

However, this isn't anything close to a regular winter, as Phillips and the club have been bogged down in prolonged negotiations for a contract extension.

Cincinnati picked up Phillips' $12 million option for 2012 in November. The 30-year-old has made it clear since last season that he wants a long-term deal. After some initial talks early in the offseason, it's been very quiet of late. General manager Walt Jocketty has been immersed in several Reds acquisitions since the holidays.

"I have no idea. My agent hasn't called and told me anything about it," Phillips said about progress on his contract. "The best thing about it is I'm really not worrying about it. They're doing a good job of making the team better. I will have my day. I'm not really tripping about it. If it comes soon, it would be nice. I'm going to have my day, regardless."

Phillips, who won his third National League Gold Glove after the 2011 season, batted .300 with 18 home runs and 82 RBIs. He finished the year as the Reds' leadoff hitter, a role he will likely fill at the start of the season.

After originally using some strong rhetoric last summer that he would not be happy to play without an extension, Phillips seems to have mellowed publicly. Asked if he would be willing to keeps talks going into Spring Training or the regular season, he did not dismiss the notion.

"I'll leave it up to my agent. That's one thing I can't control," Phillips said. "I hope it gets done. I can't do it for them. All I can do is go out and produce and bring a championship to the Queen City."

Reds will close spring slate at Great American

CINCINNATI -- The Reds formally announced plans on Thursday to play a final spring exhibition game at Great American Ball Park on April 3. Calling it a "spring showcase," the Major League club will play a futures squad of players from its Minor League affiliates.

All tickets for the 7 p.m. ET game, which have reduced prices, will go on sale on Sat. Feb. 4. Gates open before the game at 5 p.m.

Doug Flynn, a Reds infielder from 1975-77, will serve as an on-field host, while select Reds coaches and players will wear microphones and interact with fans during the batting practice. There will also be discounted merchandise and food concessions and one randomly picked fan will get to throw the ceremonial first pitch.

The Reds' open the regular season at Great American Ball Park two days later at 4:10 p.m. on April 5 vs. the Miami Marlins.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.