CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Maybe it was because he was originally viewed as a long shot to make the team, but few veterans have flown lower under the radar this spring than non-roster invitee Victor Santos. On the other hand, even fewer Reds pitchers are having a better spring than the 30-year-old right-hander. Santos has thrown 11 2/3 scoreless innings and notched two saves in his seven appearances this spring. He has allowed five hits and one walk while striking out eight.
"You go 11-plus innings without giving up a run, that's pretty good," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "I don't any of us expected him to go out there and not give up a run all spring." "Things are going well," Santos said Tuesday before the Reds played the Phillies. "I've been throwing the ball really well. The decision is not up to me, but hopefully, they've seen what I've done and it will earn me a spot on the roster." Santos, who made the trip but did not pitch in a 6-2 loss, has bounced through five organizations in six seasons since breaking into the Majors in 2001. He is 22-42 with a 5.14 in 150 games, including 84 starts. Last season with the Pirates, he was 5-9 with a 5.70 ERA in 25 games -- including 19 starts. Originally signed to a Minor League deal in January with expectations he'd battle for the fifth starter's job, Santos has not made any starts this spring. Matt Belisle, Bobby Livingston, Kirk Saarloos and Paul Wilson were the only fifth spot candidates that saw starts, while Santos has worked exclusively from the bullpen. "You just have to decide who to narrow it down to at some point. We tried to do that," Narron said. "Like I told the pitchers the very first day, everybody is not going to get the same opportunity. If you do well, you get back out there. Santos has definitely done well. So he's still alive. I'm happy for him." Injuries to relievers Bill Bray and Gary Majewski might have opened up a spot in the bullpen. Rule 5 pick Jared Burton is another right-hander that's still vying for a job. Because he missed a month of last season with a strained rotator cuff, Santos picked up extra innings in the offseason pitching winter ball in the Dominican Republic. The decision might pay off in the form of a job with the Reds. With four days until the club heads north, Santos didn't seem nervous about his tenuous situation. "I don't pay any attention to the extra stuff," Santos said. "All of that will work itself out once the decisions are made. All of that is easy. I'll concentrate on finishing strong and just pitching, really." Freel OK: Against the Phillies on Tuesday, center fielder Ryan Freel made another one of his trademark,death-defying catches and paid for it in the form of back spasms. On Aaron Rowand's first-inning drive to the left-center field wall, Freel made a spectacular head-first diving catch across the warning track as he collided into the fence. He spent several moments on the ground as left fielder Adam Dunn and right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. came over concerned. Freel was looked over by the trainer and Narron but finished the inning. Josh Hamilton took over in center field for Cincinnati in the bottom of the second. The Reds said that Freel returned early to the team complex in Sarasota but was fine. "It shows you how crazy he is," said starting pitcher Kyle Lohse, who was on the mound at the time of the play. "He's a gamer. You don't see too many guys go head-first into the wall in Spring Training, jeez. It shows you he's out there and he doesn't take any plays off, no matter what. That's impressive."
Injury report: Bray has not thrown this week because of continued discomfort from a bruised left index finger.Injured reserve outfielder candidates Chris Denorfia (strained right forearm) and Norris Hopper (bruised right heel) could be ready by Friday. Denorfia was expected to attempt throwing Wednesday. More than one bridge: Griffey made a rare Spring Training road trip to Clearwater on Tuesday and started against the Phillies. Griffey, who returned Saturday from a broken left hand that kept him out most of camp, was expected to play in the remaining home games of camp. Griffey often jokes during camps that he doesn't take bus trips that are over one bridge away. Clearly, Narron had other plans. "It's a night game," Narron reasoned. [And] we're going to see the guy pitching tonight [lefty Jamie Moyer] in about three weeks." Griffey was 1-for-3 with a surprising bunt single to third base leading off the second inning. He is 3-for-10 (.300) in his three spring games. Laser throw: Video of a perfect throwout by Hamilton in right field Monday vs. Boston had circulated on TV highlight shows and around Internet blogs Tuesday. On Alberto Castillo's long ninth-inning drive to right field, Hamilton snatched the ball quickly off the wall. From the warning track, he aired out a long throw to second base and got Castillo out. "He's a pretty big-time athlete," Narron said. "Not many people in baseball are going to make that throw." After he replaced Freel on Tuesday, Hamilton went 1-for-2 with a third inning single to center field. Louisville bound: A pair of big-league veterans cut from Reds camp will begin 2007 with Triple-A Louisville. Outfielder Bubba Crosby and infielder Mark Bellhorn both accepted their assignments on Tuesday. Crosby was sent outright to Louisville on Saturday and had 72 hours to make a decision. Bellhorn was re-assigned to the Minor League camp Monday. Coming up: In his final tuneup, Reds Opening Day starter Aaron Harang will start against Zach Duke and the Pirates on Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. ET in Sarasota.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.