6/30/2014 11:37 P.M. ET
Reds reach agreements with two top Draft picks
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- The Reds have agreed to terms with two 2014 Draft picks, including top first-round selection Nick Howard, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Virginia.
A deal was also completed with Cincinnati's second-round Draft pick, UC Irvine infielder Taylor Sparks. MLBPipeline.com's Jim Callis reported that Howard agreed to a $1,990,500 bonus, which is $100,000 below slot value, while Sparks will receive $972,800.
The signings have not been announced by the Reds.
Howard, 21, was Virginia's closer and a utility infielder, but will be developed as a starting pitcher by the Reds. He was ranked the No. 31 Draft prospect by MLB.com and has a fastball range of 95-98 mph.
In 31 games this season, Howard had a 1.91 ERA and 20 saves with 14 walks and 60 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings as his school reached the finals of the College World Series.
Ranked No. 56 among Draft prospects by MLB.com, Sparks batted .308/.389/.506 with five home runs and 37 RBIs in 66 games as the Anteaters reached the College World Series.
With the Howard and Sparks deals completed, the Reds have agreed to terms with each of their first 18 Draft picks this year.
Votto giving '100 percent' despite leg injury
SAN DIEGO -- When the Reds got Joey Votto back from the disabled list after he strained his left quadriceps near his knee, manager Bryan Price repeatedly noted he was aware the first baseman wouldn't be 100 percent healthy -- likely for the rest of the season.
That couldn't have been more clear during Sunday's 4-0 win over the Giants when Votto appeared to be favoring his leg on a couple of swings. In the ninth inning when he was on second base, he didn't attempt to take third base as Todd Frazier scored on Brandon Phillips' sacrifice fly. Votto also limped as he scored from second base on Brayan Pena's RBI single.
Votto, who has yet to hit a home run since his return, did not want to characterize the status of his leg when approached Monday.
"As long as I'm playing, I'm 100 percent," said Votto, who was out from May 16-June 9. "That's going to be the interaction between you guys and me. If I choose to go on the DL, I'm on the DL. If I choose to play, I'm 100 percent. ... You should expect the very best from me if I'm out there."
In 18 games since activation, Votto entered Monday batting .265/.378/.368 with seven doubles and 10 RBIs. He was also 3-for-21 in the first seven games of the road trip.
"I'm talking about the fans in general, if I'm out there and I choose to be out there, they have every right to boo or be disappointed or expect more from me," Votto said. "If you're on the DL, you're not playing. If you're on the field, you're playing. I can't say anything more than that. The expectation for me should be to play at or near my best all the time. If I'm out on the field not performing well, it's because I'm not performing well, not because I'm not healthy."
Price and the Reds remain watchful about Votto's health but have no new concerns about his status. There were no expectations he would return to the DL, unless he regressed to where he was when he first was injured.
"I don't even want to suggest that we're close to that," Price said. "We're just trying to keep tabs on it and see where it goes and stay optimistic that the knee will hold up and he'll be able to give us what's got to give us every day he's in the lineup."
Reds ink pair of lefties to Minors contracts
SAN DIEGO -- The Reds on Monday signed a pair of veteran left-handed relievers to Minor League contracts in Ryan Rowland-Smith and Scott Maine. Rowland-Smith was assigned to Triple-A Louisville and Maine will pitch for Double-A Pensacola.
According to general manager Walt Jocketty, the moves were not in response to lefty Sean Marshall being out for the season because of shoulder surgery.
"We're just trying to strengthen our Minor League system," Jocketty said. "If it works out, great. We always like to sign left-handers. It was not meant to be an audition for here."
Rowland-Smith appeared in six games for the D-backs this season and had a 4.91 ERA before becoming a free agent in April. He was picked up by the Blue Jays organization but was released on June 11. Maine had a 5.59 ERA in 50 games for the Cubs and Indians from 2010-12. He was pitching this season for Bridgeport in the independent Atlantic League.
Simon sporting All-Star-worthy credentials
SAN DIEGO -- As Sunday's scheduled revealing of the All-Star Game rosters approaches, it will be interesting to see if Reds pitcher Alfredo Simon is rewarded for his first-half performance. Simon is tied for the National League lead in wins with a 10-3 record while posting a 2.81 ERA in 16 starts. At 102 2/3 innings pitched, he's only 13 innings away from tying his career high.
Simon, who was moved from the Reds bullpen after two strong seasons to replace an injured Mat Latos during Spring Training, kept his spot even after Latos returned. The last time he had started was 2011 for the Orioles, when he was 3-8 with a 4.96 ERA in 16 starts.
In his last start, Saturday at San Francisco, Simon received a no-decision after he allowed one earned run and three hits over seven innings with only 80 pitches. That left him unbeaten over his last six starts.
While fans are unable to cast a vote for Simon, eight Reds position players remain eligible for election, including third baseman Todd Frazier, second baseman Brandon Phillips and catcher Devin Mesoraco.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15, on FOX.