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Pennington secures Reds roster spot

MLB.com @m_sheldon

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Another piece to the Reds' roster puzzle was put in place Saturday when veteran non-roster infielder Cliff Pennington was told that he made the team.

Pennington, who was signed on Feb. 15, will be on the bench as a backup shortstop to Jose Peraza, and can also play second base and third base. The 33-year-old is batting .216 during the Cactus League, but his numbers and track record were not the only determining factors.

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Another piece to the Reds' roster puzzle was put in place Saturday when veteran non-roster infielder Cliff Pennington was told that he made the team.

Pennington, who was signed on Feb. 15, will be on the bench as a backup shortstop to Jose Peraza, and can also play second base and third base. The 33-year-old is batting .216 during the Cactus League, but his numbers and track record were not the only determining factors.

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"Getting to know him over the last six weeks, he's a really good fit on this club," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I think he's great with the young players. We have a generally fairly young lineup, a very young group of pitchers, especially in the rotation. His influence and the understanding of the role are very important. His makeup is probably as big a deal as his physical attributes."

The decision to add Pennington would give the Reds' 40-man roster 39 players. Among the players who remain in camp, infielders Phil Gosselin and Brandon Dixon and reliever Kevin Quackenbush are non-roster invitees.

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"There's probably a strong chance that we'll have to go to Texas [Monday and Tuesday] with at least one spot -- maybe two -- yet to be defined for a multitude of reasons I probably won't go into," Price said.

Injury report

Reliever David Hernandez has been held back from throwing lately because of stiffness in his right shoulder. Another reliever, Kevin Shackelford, has been limited because of elbow stiffness.

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Both injuries aren't viewed as very serious, but they could have ramifications for the Opening Day roster.

"That will affect the bullpen decisions here," Price said. "We don't want to get into the season where we're concerned about the durability of our bullpen. We want to hit the ground with a healthy bunch. We're being cautious right now."

Besides Quackenbush, Vance Worley, Zack Weiss, Cody Reed and Austin Brice are potentially in line for bullpen spots.

Finnegan and Garrett pitch

Two potential pitchers for the rotation's fifth spot -- Brandon Finnegan and Amir Garrett -- faced the Padres in Saturday's 6-2 loss. Finnegan threw three innings allowing two earned runs, six hits, no walks and two strikeouts. He allowed a solo homer to the second batter of the game, Wil Myers.

"Felt good. I missed my spots a few times," Finnegan said. "The homer I gave up to Myers was supposed to be outside, and I left it a little bit over the plate and he got a good piece of it."

Garrett pitched four innings with four earned runs, five hits, one walk and six strikeouts. He also gave up Matt Szczur's two-run homer in the sixth.

"He wasn't real sharp the first two innings," Price said. "His breaking ball was big. His fastball command wasn't good. It got better as the game went on. That tells you some good things about his ability to recover and make the necessary adjustments to get more competitive with his stuff."

Finnegan is behind schedule because of left forearm spasms suffered during a March 11 start. If there are no setbacks, the plan is for the lefty to get ready for when the fifth spot is needed on April 9 vs. the Pirates. If he isn't, Garrett could take the turn.

Finnegan is expected to remain in Arizona to pitch with Minor Leaguers for at least another week. Price felt better about where he was before breaking camp.

"One of the goals beyond getting healthy was to decrease the amount of empty pitches that are thrown so far outside the zone that they don't serve a purpose," Price said. "He's been much better with that."

As for the top four spots of the rotation, Price named them in the order they were expected to be: Homer Bailey, Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle and Sal Romano.

Cruz an option as third catcher

It was something that didn't initially appear to be a consideration, but the Reds are now contemplating carrying three catchers, including Tucker Barnhart and Devin Mesoraco. If they do, the third would be non-roster invitee Tony Cruz.

Video: CIN@SEA: Cruz homers to give Reds lead in 9th

Cruz, 31, was with the Cardinals from 2011-15 as Yadier Molina's backup and the Royals in '16, before spending last season at Triple-A El Paso in the Padres' system. Signed to a Minor League deal in December, Cruz is batting .217 this spring, but has had a nice camp overall working with the pitching staff.

"I think the world of Tony Cruz," Price said. "I think he's a big league player in my opinion. He's certainly been a topic of discussion. That frees up Mesoraco or Barnhart to pinch-hit on the days they're not playing early.

"I think he's a better hitter than he was years ago, playing once every two or three weeks behind Molina in St. Louis. He has value more than Minor League depth to me."

Vargas back to Minnesota

The one spot on Cincinnati's 40-man roster opened on Saturday when first baseman Kennys Vargas was claimed off of waivers by the Twins. The Reds had just claimed him from Minnesota on Thursday.

Cincinnati made the claim not expecting Vargas to make the big league team. Since he was out of options, the team hoped he might clear waivers when sending him to Triple-A Louisville.

Up next

The Reds' final Cactus League game is vs. the Indians at 3:05 p.m. ET on Sunday. Castillo will make his final tuneup start, while Brice and Weiss also pitch. Listen to the game live on Gameday Audio.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Cliff Pennington