Cincinnati Reds: Veteran utility infielder Ramon Santiago wins first open spot on Opening Day roster

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) – Except for Skip Schumaker, non-roster outfielder Roger Bernadina (.409) and minor-league infielder Neftali Soto (.378) have been the Reds' top hitters this spring.

But neither one was at the front of the line when manager Bryan Price handed out the first open spot on the Opening Day roster Wednesday.

That went to Ramon Santiago, a 12-year-veteran who is hitting a full 200 points below Bernadina but fills a premium need with his glove.

The 34-year-old gives the Reds a true backup shortstop as well as a reliable utilityman. Santiago, who spent 10 seasons with the Tigers, batted .224 for Detroit in 80 games last season and is hitting .243 lifetime. He can also play second and third.

Bernadina and Soto are still in contention for the roster along with utilityman Kristopher Negron (.317).

Soto caught for an inning in Wednesday's 9-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox and could be insurance for Devin Mesoraco, who's battling a strained oblique.

Another One Bites The Dust

Brett Marshall strained a tendon in his right middle finger during Wednesday's start and might have to go on the disabled list.

Marshall was a contender for No. 5 starter, entering the game with a 2.08 ERA in four spring starts.

But Marshall gave up seven runs on 12 hits in five innings. He also hit a batter and committed an error on a high throw to first.

"He's a better pitcher than he pitched today," Price said before learning of Marshall's injury. "They put some balls in play. They had some soft hits, they had some balls they hit right on the screws."

Hard Time For Hitters

It's been a spring-long struggle at the plate for some of the Reds' best hitters.

> Joey Votto (.250) has just one homer and five RBI and more strikeouts (17) than hits (13) in 52 at-bats. Votto struck out twice on an 0-for-3 Wednesday and slammed his bat and helmet down when he was ruled to have swung for a third-inning strikeout.

> Ryan Ludwick (.236) also has one homer and five RBI in 55 at-bats.

> Jay Bruce (.271) has one homer and seven RBI in 48 at-bats with 12Ks.

>  Brandon Phillips (.200) hasn't hit for average but has five homers and 10 RBI in 50 at-bats.

On the plus side, Billy Hamilton (.294) is 9-for-9 on steals.

> Chris Heisey (.309) has dropped 100 points in the past two weeks but leads the team in extra-base hits (12), homers (six) and RBI (12)  in 55 ABs.

> Todd Frazier (.283) has two homers and nine RBI in 46 ABs.


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