GOODYEAR, Ariz. – As Aroldis Chapman transitions from Reds closer to the rotation, much speculation has centered on what would become of last year's fifth starter, Mike Leake.
In many ways, this is nothing new from Spring Training 2012. Chapman was to be a starter until injuries to the bullpen forced a change of role.
"I've already talked to [Leake]. We weren't sure until up to the end [of camp] last year," Reds manager Dusty Baker said on Thursday. "We've got six starters. He's still in my plans."
Leake's third season was his most inconsistent as he went 8-9 with a 4.58 ERA in a career-high 30 starts and 179 innings. The 25-year-old started the season 0-5 with a 7.71 ERA over his first six starts.
Last week, Leake avoided arbitration and signed a one-year, $3.06 million contract.
"The toughest years in the big leagues are the third, fourth and fifth years, when everybody knows you," Baker said. "They know you're not getting your breaking ball over. They know you follow your changeup with a fastball. Now it's up to you to readjust. There is no room for a marginal or bad year. People just want to take you off to the side. Every pitcher I know has had a bad year or two."
One of those pitchers Baker mentioned was future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.
"He's a Maddux type," Baker said of Leake. "I made a call to Greg and Greg talked to him about some things."
Cairo hired as special assistant to GM Jocketty
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Reds announced on Thursday that former utility infielder Miguel Cairo has joined their baseball operations department as a special assistant to general manager Walt Jocketty.
Cairo, 38, will also serve as an instructor during Spring Training for the Major and Minor League camps. He is slated to arrive at camp on Friday.
"Miguel expressed an interest in retiring as a player and becoming involved with the baseball operations side of the game," Jocketty said. "He was a leader for us on the field and in the clubhouse, and over a very successful career, earned a tremendous amount of respect within the baseball community. Miguel was a big part of our success the last three years. Our younger players will benefit from his work ethic and experience."
Cairo was a dependable backup, especially during his first two years with the Reds in 2010-11, when injuries knocked out corner infielders Joey Votto and Scott Rolen. Last season, Cairo batted only .187 in 70 games.
Over a 17-year career with nine teams totaling 1,490 games, Cairo was a .264 hitter.
Masset's shoulder surgery rehab slow process
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As Reds pitchers work in bullpen sessions, reliever Nick Masset is unable to join them. Masset, who missed all of last season, is still rehabilitating from right shoulder surgery he had in September.
Masset began a throwing program in January, and until recently was only playing catch three times a week. But it's been slow going.
"Now I'm starting to build up to throwing every day," Masset said on Thursday. "It's not exactly where I want it to be right now. But I understand that it is a process. I'm really going to have to grind through the aches and pains to build arm strength to get my arm able to throw consistently without having any setbacks."
Masset's throwing program is slated to last at least three months before he can return to game action. It's unclear when he can begin working from a mound again.
"I don't have a crystal ball right now," Masset said. "Being here every day, grinding it out and working hard with the doctors and trainers and everyone helping me out, it will be the key to getting me back on the field."
Baker looking forward to working with Hamilton
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There is sure to be lots of attention placed by fans on top Reds prospect Billy Hamilton, who is in big league Spring Training for the first time. Hamilton, who was an early arrival, was a 2012 sensation as he stole a professional record 155 bases at Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola.
Manager Dusty Baker is looking forward to working with Hamilton, but doesn't have the excitement others have.
"I'm interested to get to know him as a person and know him as a player from seeing him first hand," Baker said on Thursday. "I look at things a little different than the fans. I look at what he needs to improve on or what he's doing good right now."
Hamilton, 22, switched from shortstop to center field during the offseason and is widely expected to be the Opening Day leadoff hitter in 2014. Some fans wouldn't mind seeing that timetable moved up, however.
"If you're playing winning baseball, there are things you have to do other than just stealing," Baker said. "Switch-hitting is new for him, playing a new position is new for him. There are things that you have to do and in order to do them, you have to play to get better at it. You've got an honors student, but he's a freshman, are you going to graduate him right away? I've seen speed before. We're all amazed by speed. You have to learn how to harness that speed."