GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The Reds have told veteran infielder Ramon Santiago that he will be on the team and he will be their backup shortstop to Zack Cozart in 2014. The Reds signed Santiago in January as a non-roster invitee to spring camp with the chance to fill a role that previously has been held by Edgar Renteria, Wilson Valdez and last season Cesar Izturis.
The Reds have not yet announced a corresponding move to their 40-man roster to make room for Santiago. The 34-year-old from the Dominican Republic has played parts of 12 seasons in the Major Leagues, 10 with Detroit. He spent the last eight seasons with the Tigers in the same role he is expected to fill for the Reds.
"When our (2013) season got over we looked at our club and felt like we needed to have that type of a player," said manager Bryan Price. "Ramon has been in a tough spot as a big leaguer, as a utility infielder and as guy who doesn’t put up big offensive numbers but does a lot of the little things that help you win games."
Santiago is a career .243 hitter with a .311 on-base percentage. He played in 80 games for Detroit last season, hitting .224 in 205 at-bats. He has appeared in 22 games covering four postseasons with the Tigers, including two runs to the World Series.
He has hit .225 in 18 games this spring while playing second base, shortstop and third base as well as a little bit of left field but it’s not his offense that earned him a spot on the roster. His defense and ability to play multiple positions plus experience playing in the postseason were deciding factors. Santiago also understands he’s not going to be playing much.
"I do a lot of preparation in the cage and whenever I’m not playing I take a lot of extra ground balls at any position, the three positions — third, short and second — because I have to stay sharp," said Santiago. "Preparations are important. You have to be in time with the people that are playing."
Santiago was one of five non-roster players remaining in the Reds camp as the Cactus League winds down and the 25-man roster for Opening Day is completed. Outfielders Roger Bernadina and Jason Bourgeois as well as infielders Chris Nelson and Kristopher Negron are also in the mix for roster spots.
Price said none of the other non-roster invitees have been told of their respective status. The Reds play against the Chicago White Sox today at Camelback Ranchi in Glendale, then have split squad games against Arizona (home) and Milwaukee (away) on Thursday before breaking camp. They will play exhibition games at Double-A Pensacola on Friday and at Triple-A Louisville on Saturday.
"There are some decisions to be made still but we’ll get tightened up here in the next day or so," said Price. "We do have spots on this club that are still available. We’re not one decision away from cementing this club."