Notes: Reds tinker with 11-man staff

Notes: Reds tinker with idea of 11-man staff

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The question was about depth and versatility on his bench. The answer offered up a bit of intrigue regarding the pitching staff.

Reds manager Jerry Narron was asked if having several players able to play multiple positions was helpful. This was the answer:

"It helps a great deal and it may even help at some point that we can go with 11 pitchers instead of 12," Narron said. "I know that everybody thinks we're going to carry 12, and it probably looks that way. But if we can keep as many versatile guys as we can, maybe we can possibly go to 11."

There are 29 pitchers in Reds camp, and precious few open jobs on the staff. Narron realized he might have spoiled breakfast for some of them.

"If you write that, there could be some very nervous pitchers," Narron said.

It'd seem more plausible that carrying versatile bench players would allow a manager to carry an extra pitcher. But during a season, it's no secret that Narron likes to twist and manipulate his 25-man roster more than a bendy-straw in a cup of chocolate milk.

Reserve players know they'll have to keep more than one type of glove in their locker and multiple positions on his resume.

"We want to keep as many guys as versatile as possible," Narron said.

Ryan Freel, Juan Castro and Mark Bellhorn can play at least four positions. In the outfield, Freel, Chris Denorfia, Bubba Crosby, Norris Hopper and Josh Hamilton can play all three spots. Jeff Conine can play both corner spots.

How many pitchers are carried will depend a lot on whether the Reds keep Hamilton, a Rule 5 Draft pick and long shot in camp. Hamilton, who is trying to come back from an almost four-year layoff, must stay on the 25-man roster all season.

Another factor is if the Reds opt to carry three catchers and take veteran Chad Moeller north.

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Camp with Conine: More 40-year-olds than ever seem to be having productive big-league careers these days, and 40-year-old outfielder/first baseman Jeff Conine hopes to continue the trend.

Is 40 the new 30 in baseball?

"I wouldn't go that far," Conine said. "There are lot more guys playing later in their careers. The training techniques and the emphasis on weight training helps guys be in better shape later in their careers than they used to be."

Conine, who was traded to the Reds from the Phillies for two Minor Leaguers in December, is playing the option year of his contract and making $2 million this season. A potential free agent at season's end, he didn't indicate how many more years he wanted to continue his career.

"I'm just taking it year by year. We'll see this year," said Conine, who batted .268 with 10 homers and 66 RBIs with the Orioles and Phillies. "At the end, we'll evaluate."

Conine appeared to be a quiet, all business guy in the clubhouse. In other words, he is definitely Narron's type of player.

"He's a guy I've always admired and respected on the other clubs," Narron said. "You know he's going to go about his business the right way and he's going to be a true pro. I don't know even if he remembers, but a couple of years ago, I told him that as a baseball person, I appreciated the way he went about his business."

Conine can play either corner outfield spot and first base, and he will be a right-handed pinch-hitter option off the bench for Narron.

"He's a guy you know that if he's brought in to pinch-hit against a left-handed pitcher and they bring in a right-hander, he's going to give you a good at-bat," Narron said. "His numbers will show you he'll be as good either way."

Hopper takes leave: Outfielder Hopper left camp after Friday's workout to travel to New Jersey. Hopper will attend the funeral for his grandmother, Arneta Turner, who passed away.

Owner in town: Reds owner/chief executive officer Bob Castellini arrived in Sarasota on Friday and made his first appearance at Spring Training.

Seen and heard: Before Friday's workout, Reds players took part in the annual photo day activities. Baseball card companies, still photo media outlets and the Reds' scoreboard staff took turns snapping pictures of all 56 players in camp and the coaching staff.

Saturday's workout will be abbreviated so players can attend the annual Reds Rally at 12 p.m. ET in downtown Sarasota.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.