GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The battle for precious few spots in the bullpen is tight and J.J. Hoover is giving the Reds every reason to make the decision harder. In his last two outings, Hoover has struck out all seven batters faced. He fanned four batters against the Rockies on Monday.
Reds manager Dusty Baker isn't discounting Hoover's performances just because it's just Spring Training.
"A guy throwing fastballs is an even greater feat because that's what guys are ready to hit. He's throwing fastballs," Baker said on Tuesday. "Guys throwing a lot of junk, it's tarnished a little bit because guys aren't ready to hit junk."
Hoover has a 2.25 ERA in seven appearances but faces an uphill battle nonetheless because he has Minor League options. Relievers like Alfredo Simon and Jose Arredondo do not have options left.
Speedster Hamilton assigned to Minors
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds center fielder and top prospect Billy Hamilton was part of the latest roster cuts from Spring Training.
On Tuesday, Hamilton and right-hander Drew Hayes were re-assigned to the Minor League camp.
Hamilton, 22, batted .174 (4-for-23) with two triples and nine strikeouts. He was in camp as a non-roster player.
"He hasn't been switch-hitting that long. His record here in Spring Training, he's not doing real well for a guy that has speed," Reds manager Dusty Baker said before the move was revealed. "He's striking out too much. He had to come here to see where his development is, where he is, and realize he has some ways to go. If he didn't, he'd be here already."
Hamilton, who stole a professional-record 155 bases last season at Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola, has been learning a new position after switching from shortstop in the offseason. With his prowess for stealing, the organization felt his body would take less of a beating in the outfield.
During the eighth inning of Monday's 4-3 win over the Rockies, Hamilton's blazing speed was on full display as he hit a triple to the gap in right-center field. Had Tyler Colvin not cut it off quickly, Hamilton might have had an inside-the-park home run.
"He was really flying," Baker said. "We're enamored by speed because there's less of it around. When I was playing, if you couldn't run, you better be able to hit a bunch of home runs because most guys could run."
Hamilton being cut comes as no surprise. The expectations entering camp were that he would begin the season at Triple-A Louisville.
Hayes was 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in six spring relief appearances. There are 37 players remaining on the spring roster.
Phillips back in the fold, ready for season
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Truth be told, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips wasn't quite ready to return to camp after the World Baseball Classic. He hoped Team USA would make it to the championship game on Tuesday night in San Francisco.
Instead, Puerto Rico eliminated the American squad Friday night and advanced into the championship game against the Dominican Republic after beating two-time defending champion Japan. But, Phillips wasn't sad about being among the Reds again.
"I'm disappointed about losing. Being back, I missed the guys and missed the team," Phillips said on Tuesday morning. "Would I have loved to win the WBC? Of course. That's the goal. I wish I was still playing in it right now. Things didn't go that way. The better countries beat us. Now it's time for us to get ready for our real season and enjoy the rest of Spring Training."
After getting a couple of days of rest and his equipment finally arriving, Phillips was back in the Reds' lineup against the White Sox on Tuesday. He played five innings and went 2-for-3 with an RBI single in the fourth inning and two runs scored.
In six Classic games, Phillips batted .269 (7-for-26) and amassed countless more good memories from the experience.
"I'd do it again. It was fun," Phillips said. "It was more than I expected. I loved every second of it."
Phillips also found playing in those types of games to be much different than anything he's done before.
"At Spring Training, you're used to playing three innings, maybe five innings. There, you have to play all nine and try to win," Phillips said. "Instead of going out there and working on things for the season, you have to represent your country by winning. It was a lot of work. It was something I didn't think would be like that but it was awesome. It was a dream come true."
As for getting ready for the season, Phillips spent time with USA coaches Larry Bowa, Dale Murphy and Gerald Perry and also worked with Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins in the infield. He didn't think his preparation for the regular season would be negatively affected.
"It was fun and I got a lot of work in," Phillips said. "I learned a lot from those guys and hopefully it can help me during the season."
Ludwick's early cold spell not a concern
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick is not off to a robust start at the plate this spring, batting .111 (4-for-36) in 14 games. His only home run came in an exhibition against Team Canada.
Manager Dusty Baker is not remotely worried about Ludwick, however.
"I think we put too much stock in Spring Training with veterans. He started slowly last year," Baker said.
Ludwick seized control of the regular left fielder's job by June of last season and went on to hit .275 with 26 home runs and 80 RBIs in 125 games. He was re-signed to a two-year, $15 million contract in December.
"Once you know these things, that he's a slow starter, you don't panic," Baker said. "I'm trying to figure out a way to get him started a little quicker. But I've always said it takes older guys longer. Plus, he's got a lot of moveable parts that you have to get in sync. His swing is not as simple as Joey [Votto's]. In order to get it timed, he needs reps. I'm not worried. Last year at this time, I didn't know. It's how you finish."