Mike Hartsock and Hal McCoy discuss Reds outfielder Jay Bruce during Reds spring training in Goodyear, Arizona.

McCoy: Simon ready to start in a pinch

Alfredo Simon, Mr. Emergency, was back on the mound as a starter Monday when the Cincinnati Reds played the Seattle Mariners.

After pitching two hitless innings in the spring opener last week, Simon followed it with three more hitless innings Monday (one walk) .

He walked the second batter he faced, then retired eight straight, four via strikeouts. And one hitter, Carlos Triunfel, turned two bats into splinters during his third-inning at-bat against Simon.

With Mat Latos yet to trudge up a mound and with Mike Leake yet to start a game, the decision to stretch out Simon appears more and more important.

Manager Bryan Price said the plan coming into spring training was to stretch out Simon no matter what, even if all five starters were healthy — just in case.

Well, four weeks away from Opening Day, just in case is here.

“We planned to do it as far as two-third of the way through exhibition games as depth, our depth guy,” Price said.

“If nothing else this guy certainly has earned the right to get an opportunity to start, if there was an opening due to injury,” Price added. “He has been so good the last two years pitching out of our bullpen. He has a starter’s background (19 starts with the Baltimore Orioles, 116 starts in the minors). He is durable and he’d be a guy to support our rotation.”

If it appears that Latos and Leake will be ready for the season with a week left in spring training, Price said they would use the last seven to 10 days to get Simon re-acclimated to pitching out of the bullpen.

But Simon is displaying exactly what he wants to do.

“I felt great today, all my pitches were very good,” said Simon, a 32-year-old 6-foot-6 265-pound right-hander from the Dominican Republic. “I threw my two-seamer, my change-up, my split and they all worked pretty good.”

Of his five no-hit innings, Simon said, “I’m just doing the best I can, trying to get the opportunity to be a starter. We’ll see what happens.”

He said he broke Triunfel’s first bat with a two-seam fastball and the second one with a slider, “And my breaking pitches were working very good.” It is supposed to be difficult to throw breaking pitches in the dry desert air, but Simon said, “Mine were working good. I just try to put as much spin on them as I can. I was getting the first strike and then the breaking balls were really working good.”

It isn’t difficult for Simon to change his preparation from possibly pitching two or three days in a row out of the bullpen to pitching every fifth day.

“When I was a starter in Baltimore I just put my mind on pitching every fifth day, get ready for that day,” he said. “I’m just trying to feel the same way right now.”

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