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Duran: A home run and then a good-bye

GOODYEAR, AZ. — He is only 23 but this will be his eighth year in professional baseball because Juan Duran signed when he was 16.


With the Reds down by a run in the ninth inning Monday against the Los Angeles Angels and with two runners on base, Duran cranked a 2-and-1 pitch over the right center field wall, a three-run game-winning home run.


Because it was a split squad game and manager Bryan Price was on the other side of Phoenix at Talking Stick for a game against Colorado, bench coach Jay Bell managed the Angels game.


Somebody facetiously asked him why he didn’t have Duran bunt with runners on first and second, to get the winning run in scoring position.


“I asked (coach) Freddie Benavides if we should bunt and he said, ‘Yes,’” Bell said with a smile. “But I said, ‘Naw, let him hit away.’”


You don’t have a 6-foot-7, 231-pound power-pack bunt when he can hit a three-run home run, which he did.


“Duran has grown up (how much more can he grow?) and he has matured a ton,” said Bell. “He is very, very impressive. Last year (his first in big league camp) he was just raw. But he did some really nice things during the season and this spring he has really impressed.”


Duran, an outfielder who can play all three spots, mostly played right field last year at Class AA Pensacola and hit .243, but led the team with 17 homers and was second in RBI with 51.


NEVERTHELESS, Duran was optioned to Class AA Pensacola Tuesday morning. Outfielder Yorman Rodriguez was optioned to Class AAA Louisville. Re-assigned to minor league camp were RHP Jonathan Crawford, LHP Ismael Guillon, RHP Nick Howard, RHP Robert Stephenson, RHP Nick Travieso, infieler Neftali Soto, outfielder Ryan LaMarre and outfielder Jesse Winker.


INJURY UPDATE: Devin Mesoraco’s mild concussion symptoms are improving. Manager Bryan Price said he showed improvement Monday and Tuesday.


“We’re familiar with concussions after last year with Skip Schumaker and Billy Hamilton,” said Price. “There are different tests they do each day to check on the amount of improvement. I don’t imagine him being released to play in the next couple of days. There are tests he has to pass to be able to play.”


Todd Frazier (sore lower back) was back in the lineup Tuesday afternoon against Milwaukee, but Billy Hamilton, walking the clubhouse a lot with an ice pack on his shoulder, is still out.


“Billy is getting better but not yet ready to go into game situations,” said Price.


THE REDS PLAYED their eighth game of the spring Tuesday against the Brewers and Brayan Pena was behind the plate for the first time.


It turns out, unbeknownst to many, that Pena had off-season elbow surgery and has been rehabbing his throwing arm.


“The surgery slowed down his throwing progression, so when he showed up this spring he had some soreness,” said Price. “We had to shut him down for a short while and then rebuild him with a specific throwing protocol to pass before he could be cleared to catch in games.”


Pena served as a designated hitter in early spring games, “To get him at-bats because it didn’t affect his swing. He is good right now. He has done some throwing with (catching coordinator) Mike Stefanski and he looks great,” said Price.


WITH BILLY HAMILTON out temporarily, Kristopher Negron batted leadoff Tuesday against the Milwaukee Brewers and Kyle Lohse. And Lohse might remember Negron.


“I hit a home run off him last year,” said Negron. “I watched the tape and I saw him look at me after I hit it as if he was wondering, ‘Who is that guy?’ But I ran the bases real fast (he always does) so he wouldn’t have any reason to buzz my tower.”


THIS IS MY last day at spring training. I am returning to Dayton and will begin a book tour next week. The book, ‘The Real McCoy,’ comes out next Monday. I will put my book tour schedule in this blog in the next couple of days.

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