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04/01/12 8:35 PM ET

Lefty Francis to start at Triple-A Louisville

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Reds moved another step closer to a final roster on Sunday when left-hander Jeff Francis was told he was beginning the season at Triple-A Louisville.

That leaves the Reds with 26 healthy players in camp, including 11 pitchers. General manager Walt Jocketty declined to say if the club's plan was to start with 11 or 12 pitchers. The team is short in the bullpen because of injuries to closer Ryan Madson and setup man Nick Masset.

"We haven't made that decision yet," Jocketty said. "We've got the roster pretty well figured out, but we'll probably have it ready for you [Monday] morning."

The deadline to turn in a final 25-man roster is 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Francis, a former Rockies and Royals starter who signed a Minor League deal with Cincinnati in January, posted a 6.65 ERA with two walks and 14 strikeouts in six spring games, including three starts. Two outings ago, he had a disastrous 11-run, 11-hit start over three innings against the Rangers. But he rebounded on Saturday against the Giants by giving up two runs and three hits over seven innings.

"Francis will go to Triple-A to start," Jocketty said. "I kind of told him that the other day. There's still a possibility he could pitch in the bullpen, but we decided to send him there because we need to have a starter available in case something happens. He pitched well enough where he would certainly be that guy. He had a good spring other than that one outing."

Opening Day to be special for Mesoraco

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As he prepares to open a season on the big league roster for the first time, Reds rookie catcher Devin Mesoraco is eager to get going.

Mesoraco's spring stats aren't overly robust, but he feels ready.

"Definitely," Mesoraco said. "I think defensively I've been pretty strong down here. That was my main focus coming into camp -- get on a good page with these pitchers. Hitting-wise, I started off slow. But the past couple of games, I've felt better and better."

Mesoraco, who was 1-for-2 with an RBI triple during Sunday's 13-10 loss to the White Sox, is batting .250 this spring. The 23-year-old has worked on his hitting mechanics with coach Brook Jacoby and got extra at-bats in Minor League games of late.

With hits in seven of his last nine games, Mesoraco is batting .364 (8-for-22) in that stretch.

"Early in camp, I was underneath the ball and popping a lot up, which isn't a terrible thing," Mesoraco said. "It just means I was a hair off. I think now I'm pretty close to where I expect to be the whole way through the season."

A September callup last season and the organization's top prospect, Mesoraco is excited to soak up the memories that come with his first Opening Day in the Majors when the Reds play the Marlins on Thursday at Great American Ball Park.

"My first Opening Day will be pretty special," Mesoraco said. "It was great to be up there in September and have that. To start the season with the club is a completely different feel. It's not like I am the new guy coming in. I'm one of the guys. With everything I hear about Cincinnati and Opening Day, it should be an awesome experience."

Futures squad roster unveiled by Reds

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Reds revealed the roster of the Minor League Futures squad that will play the big league team in Tuesday's exhibition game at Great American Ball Park.

Managed by Triple-A Louisville skipper and Cincinnati native David Bell, the squad will include shortstop prospects Billy Hamilton and Didi Gregorious, first baseman Neftali Soto, outfielders Denis Phipps, Ryan LaMarre and Kyle Waldrop and pitcher Robert Stephenson, last year's first-round Draft pick.

First pitch for the Reds vs. Futures game will be at 7:10 p.m. ET. Gates open at 5 p.m. for batting practice by both teams.

Worth noting

• The Reds will hold a 4 p.m. ET workout at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday, the day before Opening Day. It is not open to the public.

• Right-handed reliever Jordan Smith, who is recovering from a sore right elbow, believes he is at 100 percent again. Smith will remain in Arizona for extended Spring Training to keep throwing after camp breaks on Monday.

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.