Simon bringing needed boost to Reds' rotation

Veteran righty looks ready for season after 2 spring starts

Simon bringing needed boost to Reds' rotation

PHOENIX -- Alfredo Simon is in his second tour pitching for the Reds, and the way the rest of the starting staff has trended this spring, he's given his new club a breath of fresh air.

Inclusive of Sunday's 4 2/3 innings of one-run, two-hit ball in a 7-6 victory over the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch-Glendale, Simon has made two starts since answering an SOS call in the Dominican Republic and signing a one-year, $2 million contract as a free agent on March 17.

He has allowed that run on two hits with a walk and six strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.

"He looks sharp, he looks terrific," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He had his whole repertoire down. That was real nice to see."

Compare and contrast: The Reds starters went into Cactus League action on Sunday 28th out of the 30 Major League teams with a 7.86 ERA. Simon's spring ERA is 1.17.

"I know I'm not 100 percent yet, but I'm going to be ready as soon as I can," Simon said.

Simon throws an eephus

If he's not 100 percent, Price will certainly take it. Price has been trying to figure out a semblance of a five-man rotation and knows now that he'll at least have Simon in the middle of it.

Reds' pitching decisions coming down to the wire

Simon will get one more start Saturday night against the Pirates in Indianapolis for the final exhibition game of the spring. That would pencil him in to pitch on April 7 against the Phillies at Great American Ball Park, the third game of the regular season and finale of that series.

Simon, 34, said he has promised Price he will be ready.

"I'm just trying to get ready as soon as I can because the regular season is coming in a week," he said. "I put nothing negative in my mind, just try to be focused and do my job."

Price is well aware of what Simon can add to a staff. He pitched for the Reds from 2012-14 and was converted from a reliever to a starter in 2014 when Price took over as manager for Dusty Baker. Simon filled a void left by injuries at the time to Mat Latos and Homer Bailey. Simon was 15-10 with a 3.44 ERA in 32 starts that season.

He then was traded to the Tigers and went 13-12 with a 5.05 ERA in 31 starts for Detroit last year.

"We didn't want to trade him," Price said. "We'd needed some salary relief, some payroll relief after the '14 season, and that's what led to the trades of Latos and Simon."

Now Simon is back, quickly rounding into shape. And Price is glad he is.

"He'll only have three starts, which is not an optimal situation," Price said. "We'd like to put everybody in that optimum situation, but we don't have the ability to do so. So we have put into faith that what he told us [about working out in the offseason] is accurate. And I believe that it is. That he did all his prep work, that he threw an abundance of pitches and simulated stuff before he came out here."

Simon didn't play winter ball this offseason in the Dominican, but he said he threw off a mound at least twice a week at the Bartolo Colon Baseball Academy and worked at times with the ageless 42-year-old Mets right-hander.

"He helped me a lot," Simon said. "He's a good, veteran guy. I didn't throw any innings or throw to any batters. I just threw a lot of strikes. I don't worry about the hitters. When I'm there I just try to work hard and get ready for the season."

So far, so good.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.