© 2014 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

3/12/2014 3:35 P.M. ET

Reds' Hannahan nearing return to game action

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds third baseman Jack Hannahan will likely receive a pinch-hit at-bat Thursday against the Dodgers, marking his first appearance of the spring.

Last October, Hannahan underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum. He still isn't ready to play defense, but he is healthy enough to begin seeing live pitching.

"As we get into these American League games, I think you can anticipate him being used more as a designated hitter until his shoulder is strong enough to start playing defense, too," manager Bryan Price said.

The Reds had hoped for a full-spring look at Hannahan, because Price wanted to test his versatility in the field. Primarily a third baseman but with the ability to play first, Hannahan could also see time at second and short.

"He's going to play all over the place," Price said. "You guys have seen these games where we play a lot of guys in their second and third position just to see what value they provide us. I know Jack hasn't played a great deal of shortstop in the big leagues. However, if we need a guy to play over there for a game or two, it would be nice to know he was capable of doing it."

Hannahan hit just .216 with one homer in 139 at-bats last season. But Price is optimistic about what a healthy Hannahan can contribute in 2014.

"He's a nice piece -- a left-handed bat, an outstanding defensive player," Price said. "He can be a reliable bench bat and can spell [Todd] Frazier at third. Coming into it, we were hoping he'd be physically ready, because I really wanted to have him spend some time at all the infield positions and maybe play some left field."

Reds' Hamilton facing all types of infield looks

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton isn't going to stop bunting this spring, no matter how tightly opposing defenses play him.

Hamilton, who is no stranger to facing oddly configured infields, says he's using Spring Training to master the chess match of bunting for hits -- even if it means making an extra out or two.

"The first baseman could be all the way on top of me, I'm still going to bunt this spring, just so I can figure out what's going to happen, what I can and can't do," said Hamilton, who entered play Wednesday hitting .318 with three of his seven hits coming via the bunt.

A prime example came in Monday's Cactus League contest against the Rangers, when both corners had Hamilton played three or four steps in front of the infield dirt. He dragged a bunt, making the first baseman range to his right, and that was all it took for Hamilton to get an extra step to motor in safely.

At the very least, Hamilton makes opposing managers and infielders think -- and sometimes overthink. In his time playing professional baseball, he says he's seen it all when it comes to different infield formations.

Some teams have stationed their second baseman on the edge of the dirt and kept their first baseman locked to the bag. Some clubs instruct their pitchers to hop off the mound in anticipation. In Cactus League play, the Mariners shifted their second baseman so that he could cover first, while the first baseman charged.

None of that compares to one instance Hamilton recalled in the Minor Leagues.

"In Double-A, I had the Tennessee Smokies playing with the infield in the whole game, from the start," Hamilton said. "I thought that was pretty crazy."

Reds manager Bryan Price is taking notes of the different ways opponents have played Hamilton. He's impressed with how the young speedster has handled himself, given all the responsibility being heaped on his shoulders this season as the Reds' leadoff man and starting center fielder.

More importantly, Price is confident Hamilton will use the game of cat-and-mouse to his advantage at the plate. His speed has created holes in the infield that other hitters don't have the luxury of.

"It becomes a huge part of his game, and the other part we're seeing is how different teams defend him," Price said. "It just creates a much bigger infield for him, and it's just fun to see. [Monday] was his first strikeout. He's been able to put the ball in play and utilize his speed, and that's what we need at the top of the order."

Price explains pair of Reds' early roster cuts

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A day after the Reds completed their first roster trimming of the spring, manager Bryan Price explained the reasoning for two of the club's more unanticipated early decisions.

On Tuesday, the Reds optioned lefty David Holmberg to Triple-A Louisville, and they released infielder Henry Rodriguez, who had spent seven seasons in the organization. Neither move came as a shock, but the timing of them was a bit unexpected.

"[Rodriguez] has been in the system for a while, and he's always been a great kid, really well-liked in the organization," Price said. "But we felt that he wasn't going to get the same amount of playing time as he has in years past. ... I'd imagine somebody's going to sign him here relatively quickly, and he'll get a chance to play more with another organization."

In 16 at-bats this spring, Rodriguez notched three singles and an RBI. He hit .274 while playing both second and third base for Louisville last season, and he earned nine appearances for the big league club.

Holmberg, meanwhile, has been battling a bruised shin throughout camp. He allowed two runs in two Cactus League innings and didn't look particularly sharp during a live scrimmage on Tuesday.

"It was just going to be hard to get him the repetitions and get him stretched out," Price said. "We would have liked to have taken a longer look at him, but it wasn't going to happen [because of the injury]."

Despite Holmberg's early demotion to Triple-A, Price believes the 22-year-old southpaw could return to the big league scene this season.

"Should he go out and be the best pitcher at Triple-A for us, to me, he's still at the head of the class as a guy that can help us," Price said.

Worth noting

Mat Latos threw all of his pitches in an extended bullpen session on Tuesday and felt fine. The next step in his recovery from offseason knee and elbow surgeries will be live batting practice later in the week. Price is hopeful that will be followed by Latos' first game action of the spring.

"A lot of it will be based on what we see -- if he's sharp, how he comes through it," Price said. "But I think he's been getting very close to being game-ready."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.