GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Even though he wowed the Reds last season as a rookie, reliever J.J. Hoover realizes that securing a spot in the crowded bullpen will be no easy feat. Cincinnati, which had the best bullpen ERA in the Majors in 2012, has more quality arms than roles available.
Hoover, 25, was 1-0 with a 2.05 ERA in 28 appearances last season. He walked 13 and struck out 31 in 30 2/3 innings.
"Last year was a big learning experience being called up," Hoover said. "It was my rookie year. I was learning how to be in the big leagues and how to stick. But as far as I'm concerned, last year is over. I'm going to take the knowledge I got from last year and try to apply it to this year. We have a lot of guys in camp fighting for that spot. It's a competition and I'm excited for it. I will try to let my pitching speak for itself."
In three outings this spring, Hoover has given up five hits and one run over 3 2/3 innings. He entered Sunday's game against the Royals with the bases loaded and two outs. He fought into a lengthy 3-2 count with Xavier Nady before surrendering a lined two-run single up the middle. Another RBI single followed, with the run also charged to Kyle Lotzkar. Hoover returned for the seventh and worked a 1-2-3 inning.
Hoover is experiencing his first Reds Spring Training. He was acquired in a trade from the Braves at the end of camp last year for third baseman Juan Francisco.
"I kind of knew I wouldn't crack that 'pen last year," Hoover said. "Just being around the big league guys was exciting. This year here, I feel more part of the team. I have familiarity with all the guys in this clubhouse. It's more comfortable."
Donald hopes to benefit from extra time at 2B
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- With Brandon Phillips departed for the World Baseball Classic, utility player Jason Donald started at second base for the Reds on Sunday against the Royals.
Donald, who was part of the trade with the Indians that brought Shin-Soo Choo, hopes to benefit from the playing time.
"This is one of those different kinds of years with the World Baseball Classic," Donald said. "It's going to benefit some guys in our position to get more at-bats. I'll gladly take them."
Donald, who was 0-for-2 against Kansas City, is still batting .313 (5-for-16) in nine games this spring. He is competing against non-roster players Emmanuel Burris and Cesar Izturis for a bench role. Last season with Cleveland, Donald played shortstop, second base, third base, left field and center field. That versatility could help him earn a spot, but it might be a while before he sees time in the outfield.
"I've got enough outfielders until we make some cuts," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. I don't have the room to put him out there, or Burriss. They're in the same boat. Both of them can [play outfield]. I will find out before we leave from here. I can't do it yet."
Besides already being on the 40-man roster, Donald has the added advantage of being out of Minor League options. He would have to clear waivers if the Reds cut him.
"It's not even something that's crossed my mind," Donald said. I don't recall that thought entering my mind once. It's something that's there. I'm usually pretty focused on the task at hand and not possibilities. It doesn't do any good for me to think about 'what if?' I'm about what's going on right now. What's going on right now is working to make the ball club."
Choo, Hanigan still dealing with injuries
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo and catcher Ryan Hanigan are improving, but still not back in the lineup after dealing with minor injuries.
Neither player has been in the lineup the past three games. Choo is bothered by a tight right quadriceps. Hanigan has a sore left oblique muscle.
"They're doing pretty good. I don't think they're ready," Reds manager Dusty Baker said Sunday. "If it was later in the spring, I think they'd be ready. They're disappointed not to play, especially Choo. I've got to do what I've got to do."
Baker has been pleased with Choo's adjustment to center field but believes there is more than just getting repetition at the new position.
"He has to get used to who he's playing beside more than anything," Baker said. "He has to get used to [Ryan] Ludwick and [Jay] Bruce and Ludwick and [Chris] Heisey. He has to get used to our second baseman going out as far as he does, Brandon Phillips. He has to get used to how far [Zack] Cozart goes so you don't have any collisions. These are things where you have to get to know each other. It's tougher here because these fields are not [similar] to the fields they're going to be playing on. At least it's better than not being familiar with them at all.
"It won't take him long to get used to center field. It will take him longer to used to the guys he's around."