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04/05/2013 7:45 PM ET

Minor League pitcher Covington suspended 50 games

CINCINNATI -- Reds Minor League pitcher Vaughn Covington was suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball on Friday after a second drug violation. Covington is on the rookie level Arizona League Reds roster, and his suspension without pay will begin once the team's season starts.

Covington, 19, was an 11th round Draft pick of the Reds in 2011 out of British Columbia, Canada.

Bruce not concerned with slow start to season

CINCINNATI -- Reds right fielder Jay Bruce certainly doesn't like how his 2013 season started, but also realizes there is a long way to go until his season reaches its destination.

"In the moment, you're frustrated," Bruce said Friday before facing the Nationals. "But we've played three games."

During that first three-game series vs. the Angels, Bruce was 1-for-13 and struck out seven times. The toughest number of all is the 14 runners he stranded on base.

Bruce, a streaky hitter going back to his 2008 rookie season, took early batting practice to get some extra swings prior to Friday's game.

"He fouls off pitches that ordinarily he should hit into fair territory that put him in the hole to strike out," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He should be getting to the point now where these streaks should be minimized. He knows that. He's not a kid anymore. Hopefully this won't last as long as some of the other ones.

"We need him, especially in the middle part of the order. He comes up almost every at-bat with somebody on base. That's why when he's hot, he can get a bunch of RBIs in a short period of time. When you're cold, it compounds the pressure."

A year ago, Bruce got out of the gate and batted .296 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs in April.

"I still ended up hitting .250," Bruce pointed out.

Bruce actually hit .252 with 155 strikeouts, but also set career highs with 34 homers, 35 doubles, 99 RBIs and 288 total bases.

"It's seems to get forgotten a little. It's a results-driven game and what have you done for me lately?" Bruce said. "Hey, that's just the way the game is."

Bruce wasn't the only Red who didn't hit well vs. the Angels. Joey Votto and Ryan Hanigan were 1-for-10 and Zack Cozart was 0-for-11.

"Let's face it, we're facing very good pitching staffs off the bat," Baker said. "Jay is a guy that probably needs more reps than a lot of people -- he and [Ryan] Ludwick because when they get out of sync, they have quite a few moveable parts. When they're in sync, that's why they're so hot because everything is going right and fine tuned."

Baker opts for Hanigan at catcher in opener vs. Nats

CINCINNATI -- In all four games the Reds have played this season, including Friday vs. the Nationals, Ryan Hanigan has been the starting catcher. Hanigan was paired with starter Homer Bailey in the series opener. Bailey worked mostly with Devin Mesoraco last season.

Reds manager Dusty Baker said that Mesoraco would catch for Mike Leake on Saturday. While Hanigan usually catches for Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Bronson Arroyo, Baker did not commit to a set system.

"We needed Hanigan, who throws out [48.5] percent of baserunners to negate the speed of the Angels," Baker said. "As we get deeper along, I might feel the need to mix and match. [Hanigan] shouldn't be tired early. When the weather gets hot and as he gets tired, I might mix and match."

Cairo to fill in when Berry undergoes treatment

CINCINNATI -- While third-base coach Mark Berry undergoes treatment after his recent diagnosis of throat cancer, he is expected to miss road games. Partly for continuity purposes, bench coach Chris Speier is serving as third-base coach at both home and road games while Berry has been on the bench.

Manager Dusty Baker said Friday that Miguel Cairo will replace Berry when he's not able to work. Cairo, who retired as a player this past offseason, was named as a special assistant to the general manager and an instructor in February.

"We didn't think we would have to put him into battle coaching so early," Baker said. "Miguel is a guy who is very qualified. We helped school him in Spring Training to do certain duties in case Mark is not here."

Cairo, who played the last three seasons of a 17-year career with the Reds, worked under respected managers including Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and of course, Baker.

"He picked up some things from everybody," Baker said. "I urged him to pay attention like he did as a player, but have a different view of things as a manager and just be alert. Miggy is always in the game. He's sort of a liaison between myself and some of the players and even some of the coaches. He's kind of in between right now. He just quit playing last year."

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.