Even though right-hander Mat Latos knows most of the Reds as opponents, he practically leaped at the chance to fly almost all way across the country and meet them for the first time as teammates.
How important was it to him? He and his wife, Dallas, spent fewer than 24 hours in Cincinnati before climbing back onto a plane and heading back home to the West Coast.
Lato was invited by Reds general manager Walt Jocketty to participate in the Jan. 23 kickoff of the team's annual winter caravan tour of the Midwest. Latos shook hands with most of the members of the traveling party, including second baseman Brandon Phillips.
"I don't want to walk into spring training and feel like the odd man out, with weird looks when everybody first gets there," the 24-year-old Latos said. "I just wanted to get in and know what to expect."
Latos is somewhat familiar with Cincinnati's spring training camp in Goodyear, Ariz., since his former team trains in Peoria, Ariz.
He also will find some familiar faces at camp, including outfielder Ryan Ludwick, a Padres teammate in 2010 and 2011. Seeing the Reds add Ludwick and closer Ryan Madson as free agents had Latos eager to get started.
"The team has a lot of talent at every position," Latos said. "I think, with adding Madson to the back end of the bullpen and adding Luddy, two good guys, if just adds to the ballclub. Hopefully, we can make a postseason run."
NOTES, QUOTESReds get a call from Oswalt's agent, but no deal
--General manager Walt Jocketty confirmed that representatives of RHP Roy Oswalt contacted him to see if the team had any interest in signing the 34-year-old free agent, who was limited by back problems to 24 starts last season. Cincinnati's payroll prevented any interest.
--The Reds still had not formally announced the signings of OF Ryan Ludwick to his major league contract or LHP Jeff Francis to his minor league deal that includes an invitation to spring training. When Ludwick is signed, the Reds will need to make a roster move, since the 40-man roster is full. The breakdown: 19 pitchers, two catchers, 15 infielders and four outfielders.
--The Reds announced that they will meet a team of their top minor league players in the final spring training game of the season at Great American Ball Park on April 3, two days before the opener against the Miami Marlins. Doug Flynn, utility infielder on the mid-1970s Big Red Machine teams, will serve as the on-field host and some Reds coaches and players will wear microphones so fans can listen in on what's happening on the field.
--Another clue that RHP Homer Bailey has the edge over LHP Aroldis Chapman on the fifth slot in Cincinnati's starting rotation is Bailey now is out of options. Chapman has options left, which the Reds will most likely use to let him complete his conversion from relief back to starting at Triple-A Louisville.
--The signing of RHP Jose Arredondo to a two-year contract means Cincinnati has avoided going to arbitration for eight consecutive years. The last player who reached arbitration was RHP Chris Reitsma, who lost in 2004. What makes that run more remarkable is it goes through two ownership groups and three general managers.
BY THE NUMBERS: 15 -- The number of non-roster players invited to Cincinnati's spring training camp. The breakdown was nine pitchers, four catchers and two outfielders.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think we all feel optimistic. With all the moves (general manager Walt Jocketty) has made this winter, we're very anxious to get going. There's a real upbeat feeling through the whole staff, the whole organization. You want to win every year, but we're doing everything we can to bolster this ballclub to where it's going to be a postseason team." -- Reds owner Bob Castellini, on the excitement surrounding the Reds during the team's annual winter caravan.
The Reds did very little last offseason, but that is not the case this winter. After a lot of effort to land a top starting pitcher, they finally snagged Mat Latos from San Diego. They also added closer Ryan Madson to replace Francisco Cordero.
ARRIVALS: LHP Sean Marshall (trade with Cubs), RHP Mat Latos (trade with Padres), RHP Ryan Madson (free agent from Phillies), OF Ryan Ludwick (free agent from Pirates), OFINF Willie Harris (minor league free agent from Mets), INF Wilson Valdez (trade with Phillies), LHP Jeff Francis (minor league free agent from Royals).
DEPARTURES: RHP Edinson Volquez, 1B Yonder Alonso, RHP Brad Boxberger and C Yasmani Grandal (traded to Padres); LHP Dontrelle Willis (free agent, signed with Phillies), C Ramon Hernandez (free agent, signed with Rockies), LHP Matt Maloney (waiver claim by Twins), LHP Travis Wood (traded to Cubs), OF Dave Sappelt (traded to Cubs), RHP Francisco Cordero (free agent, signed with Blue Jays), LHP Jeremy Horst (traded to Phillies).
FREE AGENTS: SS Edgar Renteria.
--3B Scott Rolen (left shoulder surgery in August 2011) was limited to 65 games in 2011. He is expected to be ready by spring training.
--SS Zack Cozart (Tommy John surgery on left elbow in August 2011) is expected to be ready by spring training.