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Simon to open Cactus League slate

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- An unexpected pitcher was named the Reds' starter for Wednesday's Cactus League opener against the Indians. It was unexpected because right-hander Alfredo Simon has been a reliever for the club the past two seasons.

Simon is getting the nod, in part, because he could be an option to join the rotation if Mat Latos isn't ready in time to begin the regular season. Latos is coming back from minor left knee surgery performed on Feb. 14.

"We do know we're short one starter right now without Mat," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Monday. "We have to look really hard at the guys that are next in line. If we were to have any setbacks possibly where Mat wasn't ready to start the season, we have to look at the group that we have here, which would include Simon. He's got a starter's background. He's got a very durable arm, so we want to look at him in longer stretches. We know he can pitch out of the bullpen."

Following Simon in the rotation will be Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Tony Cingrani and Mike Leake.

While with the Orioles from 2008-11, Simon made 19 starts, including 16 in 2011. During 2012 with the Reds, he was mostly a long reliever.

"If they need me to be a starter, I'm ready to go," Simon said. "I know it's been two years since I've started a game. If I get the opportunity, I will show them I can be a starter."

Last season for the Reds, the 32-year-old Simon was one of the relievers who stepped up amid injuries to the staff and had a bigger role than a long guy. He was 6-4 with a 2.87 ERA in a career-high 63 appearances.

"I threw a lot of innings last year. I was doing great," Simon said. "They used me a lot and I just tried to do my job. When the season was over, I was happy with what I did last year."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
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