3/26/2014 7:50 P.M. ET
In battle for spot, Negron finishing camp with a flourish
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Utility player Kristopher Negron has come on strong the last couple of weeks of camp and has at least forced the Reds into a tough decision.
Over his last 10 games, Negron is 10-for-22 (.455) with one home run and six RBIs. On Wednesday against the White Sox, he was 2-for-4 with a ninth-inning double and two runs scored in a 9-5 loss to put his overall spring average at .317.
"I've been able to come out and take advantage of the opportunity I've been presented with," Negron said. "I'm really excited for these last few days to see what happens. I'm just going to keep my head down and keep grinding. I can only control what I do on the field."
One decision did not go in Negron's favor when veteran infielder Ramon Santiago was told Tuesday that he made the club. Negron, Chris Nelson and Neftali Soto are the likely candidates for the final infield spot.
Negron, 28, has played second base, shortstop, left field and center field this spring. He played four Major League games for the Reds in June 2012 only to sustain a catastrophic right knee injury with Triple-A Louisville a few weeks later while planting his leg to stop a ball hit into the gap in left field.
"It just bent in. Everything was gone -- the ACL and meniscus," Negron said. "It was a complete reconstruction. It was a grind. I was here from July 10 all the way through Spring Training -- seven months of a constant grind every day. It started with the little things like re-learning how to bend my knee and walking again. Last year, I played with a knee brace on all year. … This year, no knee brace. I feel just as fast if not faster than I used to be."
Negron batted .225/.295/.317 in 116 games last season for Louisville and is a .244 career hitter in the Minors. His biggest asset is versatility.
"I've become accustomed to playing a different position every day," said Negron, who started at second base on Wednesday and robbed Jose Abreu of a hit in the sixth inning. "I've gotten really comfortable at every position. I can go anywhere and it won't be a problem."
Santiago slotted for utility role off bench
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Reds have yet to set their 25-man roster for Opening Day, but one of the mysteries about the final spots has been revealed. The contract of infielder Ramon Santiago was selected and he has made the team as a non-roster player.
"They gave me the news. I'm very happy," Santiago said Wednesday morning. "I'm looking forward now to help somehow. I will try to do my best to help the team win some ballgames."
Santiago, 34, entered Wednesday batting .225 (9-for-40) in 18 games this spring. But there were numerous reasons the club decided to take him north -- primarily that he provides backup coverage at shortstop.
"He's a guy that doesn't put up big offensive numbers but does a lot of the little things to help you win games," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Especially in the National League, if you're in a double-switch situation -- especially if it involves [Zack] Cozart -- you'd like to have a reliable sure-handed infielder that really could go any place. And he's a good situational offensive player. He's not going to drive in a lot of runs or hit home runs, but he moves runners. He bunts well. He's a scrappy guy with two strikes who puts the ball in play."
Santiago, who spent 10 of his 12 Major League seasons with the Tigers, batted .224/.288/.298 for Detroit in 80 games last season and is a .243 lifetime hitter. He plays shortstop, third base and second base, but the Reds used him in left field in a game this spring, too.
Price said that no other non-roster player has been informed he has made the team. Other non-roster position players still battling for spots are outfielder Roger Bernadina and utility player Kristopher Negron. Infielder Neftali Soto, who is on the 40-man roster, remains in the mix.
"There are some decisions to be made still. I think it will be tightened up in the next day or so," Price said.
Price, who was a pitching coach for the Mariners when Santiago played there, also believed the club needed a veteran for that type of bench role. The organization felt Santiago was also more of a known quantity than someone who could be called up from Triple-A during the season.
"That's a special talent in itself, to be able to perform when you're not getting a chance to play on a regular basis," Price said.
"I knew coming in that I had to work hard and try my best," Santiago said. "I know this Spring Training hasn't been my best one. At the same time, I've been battling, trying to play different positions and working hard. I never stop working, no matter the situation."
Soto trying to catch on with Reds in any way
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Neftali Soto has been trying to make the Reds' 25-man roster any way he can, and remains on the bubble.
A corner infielder seeking a bench spot, Soto came to camp last month with the catchers and has worked with pitchers in the bullpen. On Wednesday against the White Sox, Soto caught in a game for the first time when he took over behind in the plate in the seventh inning. He was 1-for-1 with a single in the eighth.
"I thought it was great," Reds manager Bryan Price said after a 9-5 loss. "He was very comfortable back there. His heart might have been beating a mile a minute, I'm sure, but he seemed very under control. It didn't look like he hadn't been back there in a while. He's worked hard with [catching coordinator] Mike Stefanski all of Spring Training. I wasn't surprised by it, but it was certainly good to see."
The Reds are looking at catching options, especially with No. 1 catcher Devin Mesoraco battling a strained left oblique muscle. Soto, the No. 3 catcher if he makes the team, last caught games in Class A during the 2010 season.
"Being able to catch, especially if he can elevate himself to be a No. 2-caliber type of guy, would immensely improve his status in this organization and his chances of getting more playing time," Price said. "He's had a great spring. He's worked hard on his catching. We really wanted to see it first-hand. With Devin being out, this is going to give us an opportunity to see what Nefi can do. He's obviously, still a work in progress."
Schumaker part of Motte's cancer initiative
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Throughout Spring Training, several Reds players have been wearing red T-shirts with a backwards "K" above the word "cancer," meaning to strike out cancer. It was utility player Skip Schumaker who brought a bunch of the shirts into the clubhouse and told his teammates to help themselves. They were created by the initiative of Schumaker's former Cardinals teammate, closer Jason Motte.
The website 108stitches.com went live on March 17, with 108 Stitches showcasing the strikeout cancer tees in each team's colors. Each is promoted by a different player who agreed to join Motte in a partnership that will benefit multiple charities. Each participating player has chosen a charity that will benefits from the T-shirt sales and for each shirt sold, $5 will go to the Jason Motte Foundation and $5 to a charity of that player's choice. A full list of recipient charities will be listed on the 108 Stitches website soon, along with a photo of each player rep in his team-colored shirt.
"At the end of the day, it's about reaching people," Motte said. "Baseball is great and everything, but there are other really important things going on out there that affect a lot of people. Wearing these T-shirts shows people that they're not alone. They're not sitting there doing chemo by themselves where no one cares. People do care, whether it's friends, family or baseball players. There are people who this has touched and this has affected. This is something we're trying to do to get the word out there and try to raise money to help."
Schumaker is involved in a charity called NEGU -- Never Ever Give Up -- that was created by 12-year-old cancer victim Jessie Rees.
"She was diagnosed with cancer and died two years ago, and she was from my hometown. We got involved and kind of wanted to make it league wide," Schumaker said. "It seems like everybody has been affected by cancer in some fashion or another. People aren't real open about it, but when you start talking about it, the more people talk about it and their stories. We've been fortunate, my family and I, to have two healthy kids. When you see kids affected by it, it just rips at you."
Left-handed reliever Sean Marshall, who hasn't pitched in a game all spring because of shoulder soreness, faced hitters for the first time Wednesday in live batting practice. Price said all went well and that Marshall looked good.