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Reds add Francis to the rotation mix

Veteran left-hander returns to organization; clubs also signs outfielder Neal

CINCINNATI -- The Reds added more depth behind their starting rotation on Monday by signing veteran left-hander Jeff Francis to a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league camp at Spring Training.

Also on Monday, the Reds revealed that outfielder Thomas Neal was signed to a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league camp as a non-roster player. Neal, 26, is a .184 hitter over 15 career Major League games with the Cubs, Yankees and Indians.

Francis, 33, has spent most of his career with the Rockies but had a previous stop in the Reds organization in 2012. After not earning a job in camp while on Minor League deal, he went 3-6 with a 3.72 ERA in 12 starts for Triple-A Louisville.

In June 2012, Francis opted out of his contract and was released by Cincinnati and quickly returned to the Rockies.

Francis was 3-5 with a 6.27 ERA in 23 games, including 12 starts, for Colorado in 2013. Over 70 2/3 innings, he gave up 89 hits and 24 walks with 63 strikes.

With free agent Bronson Arroyo not expected to return, but young lefty Tony Cingrani likely slated to replace him, the Reds have been adding some depth to their pitching ranks. The acquired lefty David Holmberg from the D-backs last month in the three-team trade that sent catcher Ryan Hanigan to Tampa Bay. Also in December, another veteran was added when the Reds signed free-agent right-hander Chien-Ming Wang to a Minor League deal.

In a career that started in Colorado from 2004-10, Francis has a lifetime record of 70-78 with a 4.94 ERA in 228 games -- including 216 starts. The British Columbia, Canada, native was a 17-game winner for the Rockies in 2007 and pitched for the Royals in 2011.

Neal was claimed off of waivers from the Yankees by the Cubs last Aug. 5. Two days later, in only his second game and first start for Chicago, he suffered a dislocated right shoulder while making a throw from the outfield. The injury ended his 2013 season.

In eight Minor League seasons, the right-handed-hitting Neal has a .301 average. He started his career in the Giants organization but was traded to Cleveland on July 30, 2011, for infielder Orlando Cabrera.

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