03/08/2013 9:58 PM ET
Soto taking advantage of spring playing time
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds first-base prospect Neftali Soto has impressed manager Dusty Baker and was even a topic of conversation during lunch on Thursday's off-day. Baker's dining companion? It was friend and Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda.
"I said, 'This guy reminds me of you, that he hits the ball to right field," Baker said on Friday.
During the first inning of Wednesday's exhibition game vs. Canada's World Baseball Classic squad, Soto lined a two-out RBI single to right field.
"Orlando told me that used to be called [swinging] late," Baker said. "He said more guys should hit the ball to right field. You tend to strike out less. You tend to put more balls in play."
Soto hasn't been shortchanged from at-bats this spring and could get more with mainstay Joey Votto playing for Canada in the Classic. But Baker will also use Jack Hannahan. It was Soto who started vs. the Cubs on Friday, while Hannahan was the designated hitter.
"Especially with Joey being gone, [Soto] is the only true first baseman I have," Baker said. "That will give us a chance to put Hannahan there. He's real good at third base. He's getting better at first base."
Reds' nightcap with Cubs shortened by rain
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Cactus League game between the Reds and Cubs was called after 1 1/2 innings because of rain with the score tied, 1-1. There will be no makeup game.
Reds starter Tony Cingrani gave up a two-out solo homer to Scott Hairston in the top of the first. He pitched two innings and allowed one run with two hits, one walk and two strikeouts. Cincinnati evened the score on Neftali Soto's sacrifice fly off Nick Struck that scored Shin-Soo Choo.
Rain had also pushed the game's start time back 16 minutes.
Masset being patient with recovery
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds reliever Nick Masset, who missed the 2012 season with a shoulder injury, isn't living or working by timetables, nor expectations of where he should be in his comeback process.
Masset is just throwing. As long as he feels good, he'll keep throwing. Currently, he is long-tossing at distances of up to 130 feet between 80-100 times every other day. In between, he's playing catch at shorter distances. So far, so good.
"Pretty much, I'm trying to build up arm strength overall," Masset said on Friday. "I've been able to throw, for the most part, pain free. It's been really good and promising so far. It's exciting to have that feeling come back. It can be a little discouraging at times. The first month or two were a little shaky. I had my good days and bad days."
Injured during Spring Training last year, Masset and the Reds' medical unit hoped rest rehabilitation would help avoid surgery. While players recovering from elbow surgeries, namely Tommy John ligament replacement, often return within a year as good as new, shoulder procedures are less predictable with fewer guarantees of success.
With all other avenues exhausted, Masset had arthroscopic surgery to repair to the torn anterior capsule in his shoulder on Sept. 7. Rehabilitation took four months, and he started a three-month throwing program in January.
"I think we're in a good position to keep excelling," Masset said. "[I'm] getting stronger, and hopefully there are no issues, so I keep getting better and better."
It's unclear when Masset, who tied for the Major League lead with 231 appearances from 2009-11, will be able to pitch competitively again. A date has not been set for working off of the mound, but it could be coming sooner than later.
"No set dates, exactly. It's so hard to say," Masset said. "I ask them and they say 'let's take it one day at a time.' We're working off of how I feel each day."
Bullpen hopeful Hayes draws Baker's praise
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Asked to name some of the young players he's liked so far during camp, Reds manager Dusty Baker's response wasn't one of the team's more known prospects. It was right-handed reliever Drew Hayes, the organization's 11th-round pick in 2010.
Hayes, 25, has worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings over four Cactus League appearances and also had a scoreless inning during an exhibition with Canada's World Baseball Classic squad on Wednesday.
"He's a guy I brought in the first two or three games with the bases loaded," Baker said on Friday. "I apologized to him and said, 'Hey, sorry I can't start you out with a clean inning.' He seemed unfazed by it. He said, 'It's OK, no problem.' He throws strikes. He has a good attitude. He and [Chad] Rogers, they stand out by throwing strikes."
Last season at Double-A Pensacola, Hayes was 2-2 with a 3.41 ERA in 56 games. In 63 1/3 innings, he allowed 53 hits and 38 walks with 64 strikeouts.