FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Two factors will loom largest this spring in determing whether pitcher Jeremy Affeldt earns a rotation spot with the Reds. It will come down to his ability to stretch his innings and his development of a changeup. Following his second spring start on Monday, Affeldt was optimistic after he threw three innings.
"It's been two and a half years since I did that," said Affeldt, who allowed one earned run and one hit with two walks and a strikeout. "It was good to get extended like that." As for the changeup, Affeldt was very pleased, and so was manager Dusty Baker. "The changeup was probably my most effective pitch," Affeldt said. "My changeup was what I'll probably go home smiling about today because I felt effective with it, threw it for strikes and got some good swings. I have stuff to go on from there." "He threw some very good changeups. I was impressed," Baker said. "He's feeling more confident, more comfortable throwing it. You know he has a good fastball and good breaking ball. The changeup, the way he was getting it over today, is an invaluable pitch that will help his fastball." In January, the Reds signed Affeldt to a one-year, $3 million contract. Although he was a successful reliever for the Rockies, the plan all along has been for the left-hander to get a shot at starting -- if he could master a third pitch. Through five innings over two games, Affeldt is 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA. Affeldt did have two critics in outfielders Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn. "No hits to right or left," Griffey told Affeldt in the clubhouse before Monday's game. "If there are walks, we'll kill you," Dunn added. Later in the first inning, Affeldt walked leadoff batter Carlos Gomez, who later scored. Affeldt's pitch count of 49 was over Dunn's predetermined limit.
After the game, Affeldt was given a ride back to Sarasota by Griffey, who drove there in his own car with Dunn."I went two pitches over Dunner's pitch count," Affeldt said. "I'll probably be pumping gas and paying for it." Bruce update: Outfielder Jay Bruce remains a couple of days from returning because of a mild strain of his left quadriceps muscle. The injury is not viewed as serious, but Baker was concerned. The skipper's words could make one wonder how the injury might affect Bruce's chances to win the starting center-field job. "One thing makes me a little wary is he's had this a couple of times," Baker said. "When you're 20 years old, you have to find a way to stop these kind of minor leg problems before they become major. It's rare to have them this young, which makes you a little apprehensive about him being a center fielder. That's a lot of running. We'll figure something out." Suggestion box: The Reds feel shorthanded lately with Bruce, Jerry Gil, David Ross and Alex Gonzalez all out with injuries. For next season, Baker plans to suggest to general manager Wayne Krivsky and owner Bob Castellini that the club holds a special Minor League minicamp for prospects. The Minor League camp has yet to start full-squad workouts. "We're short on men," Baker said. "The thing you don't want to do is bring down anybody else by overplaying them this early, while waiting on the guys to get ready." Lucky hitters: During Monday's batting practice, Griffey saw Twins greats Rod Carew and Tony Oliva standing behind the cage. Griffey rubbed his bat on both former players for luck. "You've got to rub the right players," Griffey said. Up next: The Reds will return to Sarasota to host the Indians at 1:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Matt Belisle will start for Cincinnati against Cleveland's Cliff Lee. Josh Fogg, Sergio Valenzuela, Daryl Thompson and Alexander Smith will follow Belisle.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.