GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Saturday marked the final day that second baseman Brandon Phillips would be in Reds camp before departing for Team USA and the World Baseball Classic. His absence opens the door of opportunity for the likes of infielder Emmanuel Burriss, who is trying to make the team as a non-roster player.
"That is good," Burriss said on Saturday. "We're going to get more looks, more at-bats and more playing time. It's the best of both worlds for him and all the infielders here trying to make the team and get ready for the season. However it works out, it works out."
Burriss, 28, is competing with fellow infielders Jason Donald and Cesar Izturis for one of the few bench spots open on the 25-man roster. Already given ample playing time from manager Dusty Baker, he's made the most of it by batting .368 (7-for-19) in eight games, including a 1-for-2 showing in Saturday's 4-0 loss to the White Sox to extend his hitting streak to five games.
"It feels good to be getting a lot of at-bats," Burriss said. "At Spring Training, especially being a non-roster guy, it's kind of hard to get playing time. I think Dusty is doing a good job of getting everybody into games and the at-bats they need to see."
The 33rd overall pick by the Giants in the supplemental first round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, Burriss batted only .213 in 60 games for San Francisco in 2012 and was left off of the postseason roster as his team claimed the World Series. A .243 career hitter, the majority of his 259 big league games have been at second base, but he's also played third base, shortstop and the outfield. He replaced Todd Frazier at third base on Saturday.
Burriss elected free agency after he refused the Giants' outright assignment. He did not hesitate to sign a Minor League deal with the Reds in November.
"I don't think there was too much to debate about," Burriss said. "I played for Bruce Bochy, the only manager in the Major Leagues I've ever played for, and now I'm going to another manager that has good recognition and a track record. It wouldn't have been smart of me to try and wait for another team. It was a great offer and it's a great organization to come to. Why not move to a great organization from a great organization?"
Burriss also liked returning to Ohio, where he played college baseball for three seasons at Kent State -- about three hours from Cincinnati.
"It's quite a ways away, but it's another thing that's like going home," Burriss said. "I'll be able to go see my old college coaches, go visit my old school and be part of Ohio and be closer to Washington, D.C., where I'm from. It seemed like a good fit. Hopefully, Spring Training goes well so I can keep it a good fit rather than find somewhere else to go play."
First outing typical for veteran Arroyo
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Reds manager Dusty Baker had a pregame prediction about Bronson Arroyo's spring debut on the mound Saturday.
"He'll probably get hit hard today like most veterans do," Baker said. "I remember [Don] Sutton used to get hit hard and Rick Reuschel used to get hit hard."
Arroyo did give up two runs and five hits in his two innings against the White Sox, but only one was hit hard. Other than a one-out double off left fielder Ryan Ludwick's glove at the warning track, the other four hits were either bloopers or on the ground, including a blooped RBI double in front of diving center fielder Chris Heisey.
"I felt decent, like you always do the first time out. Not great, not terrible," said Arroyo, who struck out one in the Reds' 4-0 loss. "I had command and threw a lot of strikes. I am happy about that. That's really the most important thing, and feeling stronger as spring goes on. If you have command on Day 1, it's going to stay there."
Arroyo was unable to participate in early workouts of Spring Training because of the flu. But that hasn't put him behind.
"I feel really good. I feel like I am on track," Arroyo said. "We've got an extra week. I should have probably six outings, which would get me to seven innings before we get out of there. That's about what we get every year."
Arroyo, 36, was 12-10 with a 3.74 ERA in 32 starts and 202 innings last season. He's pitched at least 200 innings in every season since 2005, except for when he had 199 in 2011.
Baker loves having a dependable veteran pitcher who can be counted on for double-digit wins and 200 innings.
"I'll take that. He can get on a roll as well as anybody," Baker said. "He's probably more reliable than anybody in baseball. It's been quiet reliability because he doesn't have the [Justin] Verlander stuff, strikeouts and stuff like that."
Arroyo doesn't have the stuff of his younger years anymore either. After a rough 2011, he changed his workout regimen to get stronger and keep his velocity steady. He did that same routine this past winter, but concedes it won't add more zip to his fastball.
"What you saw last year is probably about all I've got, man," Arroyo said. "Most days I'll probably be throwing 87-89 [mph] and that's enough for me to be successful. I wanted to push it and see if I could bounce back to 90-91, but I really can't get that except on exceptional days. As long as I can throw 88-89, I feel like I can command ballgames."
Hamilton must improve ability to make contact
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- During Friday's game against the Royals, top Reds prospect Billy Hamilton notched an eighth-inning single and his first two stolen bases of the spring. Hamilton took second base during a pickoff attempt and swiped third base two pitches later.
Manager Dusty Baker liked seeing the steals, but would like it even more if Hamilton made more contact at the plate. In 13 at-bats, he's batting .154 (2-for-13) with a team-leading seven strikeouts. He was 0-for-1 with a walk, a stolen base and a strikeout in Saturday's 4-0 loss against the White Sox.
"He has no chance to do anything when he strikes out," Baker said. "Probably half of those have been looking. Anytime he puts it in play, there's a chance of something happening."