GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- In his spring debut, Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto threw 45 pitches over two scoreless innings against the Indians Thursday. It was an encouraging beginning for Cueto, who was limited to 11 starts last season because of three trips to the disabled list.
Cueto battled often with a strained right lat muscle in 2013. There were no lingering issues Thursday as he used all of his pitches. His fastball seemed to have some extra zip as well.
"I felt like the ball was coming out really good today," Cueto said. Cueto gave up a Mike Aviles one-out double down the left-field line in the first inning and escaped. In the second, he issued a leadoff walk to Jason Giambi and a one-out walk to Jesus Aguilar, which prompted a visit from new Reds pitching coach Jeff Pico.
"I felt like I was opened up too much and landing up to first base," Cueto said. "Pico came and told me 'This is what you're doing,' so we both agreed to close it up a little bit."
During the start, Cueto still turned his back to hitters like in past seasons, but modified it slightly to make it less dramatic.
"It's the same, just a little touch shorter turn than I used to do it," Cueto said. "The good thing is I feel really good today."
Hamilton making pitchers work from leadoff spot
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Through two games this spring, Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton has shown the havoc he is capable of creating for opponents from the leadoff spot.
In his first plate appearance Wednesday vs. the Indians, Hamilton battled for 10 pitches, with a few foul balls, before drawing a walk. Before the next pitch, he stole second base and took third on catcher Yan Gomes' throwing error.
"My main thing is to work the count the first at-bat, at least, and make the pitcher work a little bit," Hamilton said Thursday morning. "You don't want to just go up there and get out on the first pitch. I felt like I did a good job to make him work a little bit. I've been working on that -- making contact and fouling balls off, which I haven't really done in the past."
On Thursday against Cleveland, Hamilton again worked a full count against Justin Masterson and lined a sharp single into left-center field. Shortstop Mike Aviles then rushed a cutoff throw behind Hamilton to first base that went into the seats for a two-base error.
Hamilton didn't score from third base after either sequence. If he keeps applying pressure, the odds will eventually be in the Reds' favor.
"My job is to get on base and get into scoring position for these guys and have them drive me in," said Hamilton, who was 1-for-2 before exiting in the fifth inning Thursday. "If I can get to third on one pitch, that's pretty good."
Latos itching to get back on mound
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds pitcher Mat Latos, who had knee surgery Feb. 14 to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee, is still waiting for the green light to throw from a mound.
"I wish. Nothing so far. I'm pulling my hair and teeth out waiting to get out there," Latos said on Thursday.
Latos has made rapid progress and could have his wish granted very soon. He's been long-tossing for several days and is throwing over 150 feet. Trainer Paul Lessard is having him focus on getting his leg stronger.
"I aggravated it a little bit doing some extra exercises. It was a simple flare-up, nothing spectacular," Latos said. "It's like anything else. You overwork something and it gets aggravated, whether it's after surgery or not. You work out your legs to a certain extent, and you wake up the next day and you're sore. It's just going through strengthening process. No setbacks. Nothing a little ice can't take care of. We're good."
Price easing veterans in this spring
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- After he wrote out what could have been a starting lineup for the regular season for Wednesday's first spring game, manager Bryan Price rested several players Thursday vs. the Indians. Billy Hamilton, Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart were the only regulars who played.
Price plans on giving his everyday players advanced notice of the games where they will be off.
"I'm sure there is a method to the madness as far as trying to get them enough work without asking them to do too much early in camp," Price said. "You don't want to beat anybody up."
Younger players like Donald Lutz and Neftali Soto made starts vs. Cleveland. Price expected Lutz to play again Friday.
"We're going to have a handful of guys that are playing pretty regularly that are bench guys that will be getting more innings than our more experienced players in the front end of camp," Price said. "It's a great opportunity for these young guys to impress."