02/27/2013 8:56 PM ET
Prospect Soto may shift to third base
By Tyler Emerick / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Listed on the Reds' 40-man roster as a first baseman, Neftali Soto's path to the Major Leagues is about as unclear as any. With franchise player Joey Votto under contract until after the 2023 season, Soto has a small chance of seeing consistent playing time in Cincinnati at first base.
But as the prospect's numbers continue to grow, the club is trying to figure out a way to place him on a realistic route to the big leagues. One option is moving him to third base, where he played 96 Minor League games in 2009 before moving across the field.
"They're talking about it, because he came up a third baseman, then really improved as a first baseman," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Those two positions are mirror images, plus he has a good throwing arm. So, he could play third base."
Soto hit .272 with 30 home runs in 2011 for Double-A Carolina. Last season, he hit another 14 long balls for Triple-A Louisville, despite battling back spasms for a chunk of the year.
"He's got some pop in his bat. He hits the ball to right or right-center," said Baker about the right-handed hitter. "I heard last year, early, he got in trouble trying pull, then in the second half, he got back to being himself. I see people change kids all the time. I can teach you to pull, but it's hard for me to teach you to hit the opposite way. So, he's got a big start on a lot of hitters, especially when you can hit the ball out of the ballpark to right-center. When you can do that, you can hit."
This spring, Soto is 4-for-9 with a double and two RBIs.
Cueto feeling strong after start
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Reds ace Johnny Cueto didn't get the results he was hoping for on Wednesday vs. the D-backs, but his outing left him feeling strong. He was on the mound for the first time since injuring his oblique eight pitches into Game 1 of the 2012 National League Division Series.
Throwing two innings against the D-backs, the 27-year-old allowed four runs (two earned) on five hits while walking one and striking out one. The Reds ended pulling away late in the game to win, 14-6.
"I was just trying to get comfortable," Cueto said through a translator. "It's a game, and you want to worry about the results, but my main concern was feeling healthy. That's what I was looking for and thank God, I feel fine. There was nothing there."
Cueto threw around 40 pitches over his two frames and was hurt by a Brandon Phillips error -- a mishandled potential double-play ball.
He was 19-9 in the regular season last year with a 2.78 ERA over a career-high 217 innings.
Chapman to start vs. Rockies today
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Reds lefty Aroldis Chapman will make his Spring Training debut Thursday, starting against the Rockies at Salt River Fields. The 25-year-old made four starts last spring for Cincinnati, but this year is different, because the Reds plan on keeping Chapman in the rotation heading into Opening Day.
Last year during camp, Cincinnati shifted him to the bullpen because of injuries to the expected relievers, and his ensuing season was dominant. Chapman finished 2012 with a 1.51 ERA over 71 2/3 innings in 68 games, while striking out 122 batters.
"I have no worries about my arm," Chapman said recently via an interpreter. "Since I've known about this, I've been working and getting prepared to do what I did before. Nothing has changed."
Like the rest of the Reds' arms in their first outing of spring, Chapman will likely only pitch one or two innings on Thursday.
If his move into the rotation is successful, Reds reliever Jonathan Broxton would take over the closer role.
Of Chapman, Reds manager Dusty Baker said: "He could very well be my best starter and my best reliever."
• Reds first baseman Joey Votto hasn't yet decided whether or not he'll play for Canada's team in the World Baseball Classic, but according to his manager, if he does, he wants to have a limited role.
"Joey said if he goes he'd like to DH," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "That's a different thing altogether, because no matter what you do, it's hard to simulate standing on your feet for nine innings."
Votto is coming off a couple of knee surgeries last season that forced him to miss 51 games.
• Baker paid Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick a pretty big compliment on Wednesday when discussing what he means to the club.
"He makes our lineup," the manager said.
Ludwick hit .275 in 125 games last year, smacking 26 home runs and driving in 80 runs.
"He's one of our keys," Baker said. "I'm hoping he can play 140 games. That'd be nice."
• Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier were both out of the lineup again Wednesday nursing minor injuries. Bruce has a sore right heel and Frazier has a strained left calf.
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.