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02/27/12 6:00 PM EST

Francis looks to make most of opportunity

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Veteran lefty starter Jeff Francis was a curious addition to the Reds when he signed a Minor League deal late in the offseason. The club already had six strong contenders for five rotation spots before he came aboard.

With that in mind, what did Francis see that made him a good fit in Cincinnati?

"I don't know if it was anything in particular. I think it was more the idea that they were really interested in having me for this role and to come to Spring Training," Francis said on Monday. "I've come in to see what I can do and hopefully I can help this team."

Francis, 31, will earn $800,000 this season should he make the club out of camp, where he is a non-roster invite. He can opt out if he doesn't make the team, or if he is still in the Minors by June 1.

During 2011 with the Royals, Francis was 6-16 with a 4.82 ERA in 31 starts. Despite his record, he had good command, with only 39 walks -- the fourth-fewest among Major League pitchers. His 183 innings pitched were his most since his 17-win, 215-inning season with the National League-champion Rockies in 2007.

In 2009 with Colorado, Francis lost the entire season because of left shoulder surgery. He missed time early in 2010 as he tried to come back, and later that year experienced tendinitis. There were no such issues last season in Kansas City.

"It's been three years since the surgery," Francis said. "I think I've done the things I can do to make sure I am strong and can last the whole year. I showed that I could last year. I have put it past me. My shoulder feels good. I feel like I can be successful and get people out."

Phipps getting first crack at Reds camp

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds outfield prospect Denis Phipps was 18 years old when he was signed by the organization out of the Dominican Republic in 2004. Remarkably, he had only been playing baseball for one year at the time because he grew up playing basketball as a point guard. His athletic idol was forward Dennis Rodman.

"I started baseball when I was 17," said Phipps, who is now 26. "In my hometown, everybody played baseball and I didn't."

That hometown is San Pedro de Macoris, which has been a factory for young talent for over a generation. Like many in that city, he was a shortstop when he first started playing.

"I tried out with the Cubs, and they said I should be in the outfield and could get better. It was based on my arm," Phipps said.

Last season at Double-A Carolina and Triple-A Louisville, Phipps batted a combined .346 with 12 home runs and 64 RBIs. The Reds, who named him the organization's 2011 Minor League hitter of the year, added him to the 40-man roster over the winter.

This is Phipps' first Major League Spring Training.

"I'm trying to do whatever I can to make the team and learn what I can," Phipps said.

Worth noting

• While speaking on Monday, Reds manager Dusty Baker was not at all worried that new starting pitcher Mat Latos lacked command when facing hitters on Sunday in live batting practice.

"He was throwing against the big boys, and he certainly didn't want to hit any of them," Baker said. "He was forcing that breaking ball a little bit. I told him to quit worrying. It's February. It's not March yet. If it was March 28, you can be a little concerned."

• The Reds like to keep things moving at camp every morning and don't waste a lot of time between drills and throwing sessions.

"That's what I've always done," Baker said. "I'm a bit of a perfectionist, at least that's what my wife and family tells me all the time. I like precision. I don't like standing around. I like guys moving. I like them busy and I like them on time. In my normal life, I'm probably over organized, if there is such a thing, and very time efficient."

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.