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3/3/2014 3:47 P.M. ET

Reds 'optimistic' Latos will throw off mound this week

Right-hander working his way back from left knee, right elbow surgeries

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Reds were hopeful that injured starting pitcher Mat Latos could soon take the next step in his rehab from left knee surgery.

"I'm optimistic he'll be off the mound this week," manager Bryan Price said on Monday morning. "It's a matter of verifying there is no soreness issue and there is no lack of strength issue. I know he's throwing. He's champing at the bit to get off the mound. He's been playing long toss and his arm feels great. Those are all excellent things."

Latos tore meniscus cartilage in his knee shortly before Spring Training and had it repaired Feb. 14. He has been rehabilitating and throwing without issues since the procedure.

"What is lost a little bit with the knee issue is the fact that he's coming off of an elbow surgery [in October], albeit one that wasn't terribly invasive," Price said. "They did still go into his elbow and pull out some loose bodies and do that 30,000-mile checkup on him. He's actually recovering from two things. He's got to build up arm strength on the mound and continue to build up strength in his knees so he can support his body."

Latos is just one of four key Reds pitchers that have been behind in camp. Right-handed reliever Jonathan Broxton, who had forearm surgery in August, just returned to throwing from a mound in the bullpen last week. Lefty reliever Sean Marshall, who missed much of last season with shoulder issues, is sore again and hasn't gotten into a game yet. Starter Mike Leake was scratched from his start Sunday because of an abdominal strain.

"We'd like to be healthy to give us the best chance to get off to a good start," Price said. "We'd like to have them ready for Opening Day and if they're not, we'll play the hand that we're dealt. The expectations for me don't decrease because we feel we have enough depth to cover some short-term absences from some of our key players. That being said, our goal is certainly to have them ready for Opening Day. We're not going to risk exasperating a current injury or speed up a rehab process to make sure they're ready for Opening Day."

Bullpen hopeful Partch tinkering with mechanics

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Trying to make the roster in Cincinnati's bullpen this spring, right-handed reliever Curtis Partch has been tinkering with his mechanics. Pitching coach Jeff Pico and bullpen coach Mack Jenkins have noticed Partch had the tendency to fly open up during his delivery.

In his second outing of the spring Sunday against the Padres, Partch delivered a perfect inning.

"I've been working on some things with Jeff and Mack with keeping my right side closed a little longer," Partch said Monday. "Besides one or two pitches, I felt like I was more in line. I could tell my pitches were a lot better. My fastball had better command. I'll keep trying to get better and be more consistent."

Partch, 27, began the 2013 season at Double-A Pensacola, but made 14 appearances over two big league stints with the Reds. He was 0-1 with a 6.14 ERA and had 17 walks with 16 strikeouts over 23 1/3 innings. Although he struggled at times, he had a couple of good outings -- including four scoreless innings vs. the Cubs in a June 13 defeat.

"Right now he's a guy who is challenging to help us more in the middle," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "His stuff plays more like a back end of the bullpen guy because he's got size, he's got velocity, his breaking ball is getting better and he's developed a really nice changeup.

"Consistency is really going to dictate what kind of career he has. He has the stuff. Now it's making consistently good pitches. He could end up being a good one."

The Reds are already deep in the bullpen, but Partch could pitch himself on to the staff, especially if relievers Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall aren't ready to begin the season on time. Broxton is still rehabbing from August forearm surgery and Marshall has had a sore shoulder.

"I feel like my stuff is good enough to where if it's doing what it's supposed to, it should take care of itself," Partch said. "I can't really be out there thinking I have to be perfect to make the team. If I don't, it's not the end of the world. I'm sure if something happens, they'll need me. I just have to show them they can rely on me and be ready when they need me. It's all you can do."

Price to increase starting pitchers' workload

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Reds are now on their second time through the rotation as Alfredo Simon started against the Mariners on Monday and pitched three scoreless innings with one walk. Manager Bryan Price said it's the plan to increase the workload of his starters by an inning each time out.

"The more innings you pitch, the more you use your secondary pitches," Price said on Monday. "Sometimes those are the last things to get a feel for. Sometimes you can manage a game for two innings primarily with fastballs and then you start to get into your breaking ball and your changeup and you can be a little more vulnerable, especially as a starter."

Price expects to see better command from his starters as Spring Training continues.

"You control your adrenaline easier," Price said. "Your repetition from your bullpen work typically starts to show itself in pitching quality during the game. It's important that these guys stay in the game and get their pitch limits. It's never fun to have to go down to the bullpen and finish up your work."

Worth noting

Reds right fielder Jay Bruce was named a charter member of the advisory board for the Taylor Hooten Foundation, which works to prevent youth from using performance-enhancing drugs. As part of the effort, Bruce will make public service announcements and engage in educational activities in and around Cincinnati.

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.