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Santiago could land back-up role with Reds

Utility infielder Cesar Izturis is gone and Jack Hannahan is still recovering from off-season surgery, so what are the Cincinnati Reds doing about back-up infielders?

One candidate is 34-year-old 10-year veteran Ramon Santiago, who has made a career out of being a reserve infielder who can play shortstop, second base and third base.

He spent the last seven-plus seasons with the Detroit Tigers, playing as many as 112 games in 2010 and 101 games in 2011. Santiago was signed by the Reds to a minor-league contract just before spring training with an invitation to the league camp.

Santiago started at shortstop the second game of the spring and started at third base Monday against Seattle.

“He can defend and an excellent situational player,” manager Bryan Price said. “Offensively, he puts the ball in play, a hit-and-run guy, is an outstanding bunter, smart on the bases and an outstanding defender at second, third and short.

“We felt we needed some support at those spots, a veteran guy like we’ve had in the past — Wilson Valdez, Miguel Cabrera, Cesar Izturis. He fills that role. And he is a great kid. If need be, he could play as an every day shortstop.”

Latest on Latos: Mat Latos still hasn’t pitched off a mound, but Price is finger-crossed hopeful that it will happen this week.

“I’m optimistic about it,” said Price. “We have to verify there is no soreness issue (in his knee) and no lack of strength issue. He is chomping at the bit to get on the mound and his arm feels great. His elbow surgery (last fall) wasn’t terribly invasive. They just removed some loose bone chips, a 30,000-mile check-up.”

Latos and Leake are tentatively scheduled to pitch off a bullpen mound on Wednesday, subject to their bodies permitting it.

Partch patrol: Curtis Partch made two trips up-and-down from Class AAA Louisville last year and was 0-1 with a 6.17 ERA in 14 relief appearances. And he is getting work this spring.

“He is challenging to help us in the middle of the bullpen,” said Price. “His stuff plays into the back end of the bullpen because he has size (6-foot-5, 238 pounds) and he has velocity and his breaking ball is getting better. He has developed a real nice changeup.

“He is a guy we saw as a starter when he was a young minor-league pitcher, but he struggled, but has really taken to the bullpen,” said Price. “He looks like a Joel Hanrahan type — hard, downward-plane fastball with a hard breaking pitch.”

Back to basics: Pitcher Dan Corcino carried the label, ‘Future Star,’ when he was whipping fastballs past hitters for the Class A Dayton Dragons in 2011. But he hit a snag last season at class AAA Louisville — 7-14 with a 5.86 earned run average in 23 starts.

Price liked what he saw of the 23-year-old right hander during his bullpen sessions this spring. But in two game appearances so far Corcino has been roughed and cuffed.

“He looks like a pitcher trying to do too much, trying to overimpress,” Price said. “Pitching mindset is an offensive mindset, not a defensive position — what am I going to do to the opponent? Corcino is just trying to not give up runs (instead of get out). He needs to go back to just playing baseball instead of putting expectations on what it is supposed to look like.”

Reds fall: Seattle scored four runs in the seventh to score a 6-5 win over the Reds on Monday. The Mariners committed five errors.

Skip Schumaker and Nefali Soto both collected two hits for Cincinnati. Reds closer Aroldis Chapman struck out three batters and allowed a run in two innings.

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