GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Throughout Spring Training, it appeared that reliever Alfredo Simon was a lock as the fifth starter in the Reds' rotation. Simon has made all of the starts in place of the injured Mat Latos, and he is stretched out to start.
However, Simon could still wind up in the bullpen. Because of the early scheduled off-days, the Reds would first need the fifth starter on April 6 against the Mets, and not again until April 15 against the Pirates. Latos could be back in the rotation soon thereafter.
"His value may be better served as a relief pitcher," Reds manager Bryan Price said of Simon. "We haven't made that final decision yet. Considering not having [Aroldis] Chapman, not having [Sean] Marshall or [Jonathan] Broxton to start the season, he could help influence that back end of those ballgames quite well."
Following two hitless outings, Simon has been tagged for 15 runs and 24 hits over his past four starts, totaling 18 1/3 innings. If he does return to the bullpen, Brett Marshall or Jeff Francis would become rotation candidates. The former would have the inside track because he is on the 40-man roster and Francis is a non-roster invite.
"It could be Brett; he's definitely in the running for it," Price said. "The one thing we've done is stretch out numerous guys. Jeff has been stretched out. We stretched out Brett. It makes sense."
Cueto feels ready, if tabbed, for Opening Day
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Perhaps the best sign of all about Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto's outing for Class A Bakersfield.on Tuesday came when it was over. After Cueto reach his pitch limit two batters into the sixth inning, he asked pitching coach Jeff Pico for one more batter.
That request was denied.
"I said I need one more; [Pico] said, 'No you're finished,'" Cueto said.
Before Tuesday's outing against Class A Advanced Carolina, Cueto's previous start was scratched after he felt a mild irritation in his right scapula. Because he was limited to 11 starts in the 2013 regular season because of a strained right lat muscle, the club took no chances.
"He might have been able to go five days ago," Pico said. "As a precautionary reason, we wanted to make sure he was ready to go. So we held him out of that game and he got treatment. It's great to see he's feeling really good now."
In five-plus innings, Cueto allowed six earned runs and seven hits with one walk and 11 strikeouts. He threw 89 pitches, including 59 for strikes. Four of the runs and five of the hits came in the first inning, before Cueto settled into a groove.
Cueto struck out the side in the second inning. A couple of his fastballs in the outing reached 94 mph.
"I'm happy today; I threw everything fine," Cueto said. "I'm ready to go for the season."
"The main thing was that he felt great and he felt healthy and he felt strong," Pico said. "That was No. 1 on my list. He went in and out of his rotation a little bit early, getting lateral a little bit, but corrected that as the game went on and threw some really good pitches today."
Pico sent Cueto back out to face two more batters in the sixth. One reached on an infield hit, and another singled to center field. Both runners scored after Cueto was lifted.
"I wanted him to get up and down six times," Pico said. "I know he only had a few more pitches left in him. That's the number we wanted to get to, and it was just a matter of sitting down and going back out six times."
Cueto has started the last two Opening Days for the Reds, and, until his injury, he seemed to have the inside track to be tapped by manager Bryan Price for Monday's opener against the Cardinals at Great American Ball Park.
"I don't know yet; I don't know what's going on," Cueto said. "I will be ready. I want to. Bryan has said nothing."
Mesoraco close to playing in rehab games
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco, who strained his left oblique last Wednesday, has resumed swinging a bat. Mesoraco took 30 swings on Monday and 50 more Tuesday without any major issues.
"Thirty off the tee and 20 from soft toss," Mesoraco said on Tuesday morning. "I want to say I was swinging around 75 percent of what I normally do. It's probably better than the 120 percent I usually swing. Everything felt good. I think it was a good step. I want to say there's still a little bit of tiredness or weakness in that area, but it's not as isolated as what it was, and it's definitely not a pulling or pain thing. We've been working it pretty hard, so it's a little worn out."
It is not clear whether Mesoraco can avoid the disabled list to begin the season. He has not played a game since March 17.
"We're getting down to it here, and we're pretty close; we'll see," Mesoraco said. "It's going to be close either way. It's getting better. That's all I'm concerned with right now. It's a lot of steps in the right direction."
Reds manager Bryan Price said that if Mesoraco could play any games this week, they would be on the Minor League fields in Arizona. If he played in the scheduled exhibitions the Reds have this weekend at Pensacola and Louisville, the club would not be able to backdate the start of a stint on the DL.
"We certainly hope then maybe in that last three days of games we'll get a look at him in game situations," Price said. "Then, if not, we have to contemplate our alternatives to start the season."
Brayan Pena would become the starting catcher if Mesoraco, projected to fill that role, can't play. Price also said prospect Tucker Barnhart could be recalled from Triple-A Louisville. Barnhart is on the 40-man roster, and veteran Corky Miller is not.
"That's definitely an option," Price said. "What we're really trying to do is -- and I think Walt [Jocketty's] been great about it -- is to start the season with our best 25-man squad, knowing that along the way that would mean adding several non-roster players to the club and risk losing some players off our 40-man roster that we would have to take off."
New tastes, technology at Great American
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There will be new features inside Great American Ball Park beginning on Opening Day Monday again the Cardinals, with much of the new food and beverages coming from homegrown Cincinnati establishments.
Most visible is the Reds Brewery District, an 85-foot-long bar between sections 117 and 118 on the third-base concourse. Among the 60 beer taps will be 23 craft beer choices, including 12 local craft beers from Rhinegeist, MadTree Brewing, 50 West, Mt. Carmel, Rivertown, Blank Slate and Christian Moerlein. The Moerlein Lager House will also have its own concession stands on both the first- and third-base concourses.
A popular local restaurant, Taste of Belgium, will serve its famous waffles inside the ballpark behind section 133 on the first-base side. Fans can get waffles, Belgian fries and chicken and waffles with maple syrup and hot sauce.
Technological advancements are coming as well. Under new Major League Baseball rules, instant replays under debate can be shown to fans on the video board. A reworked Reds Connect Zone behind section 110 on the third-base concourse will allow fans to follow and engage in real-time social media content related to the Reds. There will also be free Wi-Fi access offered along with charging stations for mobile devices.
As part of a partnership with Major League Baseball, more than 60 iBeacons were installed around the ballpark for the 2014 season. Apple's iBeacon technology works in tandem with MLB's At The Ballpark app for iPhones and the Bluetooth Smart protocol.