GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- After being greeted by a reporter just before Reds Spring Training opened, infield prospect Chris Valaika uttered two words that succinctly summed up his situation.

"Important camp," Valaika said then. The Santa Barbara, Calif., resident had already been at the team complex working out and hitting since the first week of January.

Now with Spring Training in full swing, the 25-year-old remains determined and focused on winning a spot on the Reds' 25-man roster.

"Personally, coming in having gotten my feet wet a little bit last year, it gave me a taste and I want to stay there," Valaika said on Thursday. "It's tough to be in a situation where you're kind of on the bubble and not sure where you're going to be. If I get an opportunity, hopefully I show well enough in Spring Training that I get a chance to stay with the team."

Originally a shortstop, Valaika was switched to second base before last season. This spring, he is working out and taking drills from second base, third base and shortstop.

Valaika was called up from Triple-A Louisville on Aug. 24 and notched his first big league single on the very first pitch he saw from the Giants' Santiago Casilla. He batted .263 with one homer in 19 games for the Reds after he batted .304 with four homers and 53 RBIs in 118 games for Louisville.

In a deep farm system for middle infielders, Valaika has been one of the Reds' more elite prospects and was the organization's Minor League Player of the Year in 2008. His first year at Triple-A in 2009 was lousy as he sank to a .235 average and endured his first taste of extended failure at any level.

"For me to do that and come back and put it back together last year was a huge confidence boost, knowing I could do it and get to the big leagues and being able to have a few games," Valaika said. "Having some success means even more confidence."

The Reds will have some challenging decisions to make as they seek to fill one of the final bench spots. They will also have to decide whether they want to let one of their young prospects be often idle as a reserve or play every day in the Minors. Besides Valaika, the Reds are looking at younger players like Yonder Alonso, Zack Cozart, Juan Francisco and Todd Frazier.

"Is it better for him to help us up here or is it better for him to play and help us and help himself now and later?" Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It's hard to develop sitting. A player that's sitting, you already have to be developed. That's why it's more of a veteran spot. They know how to stay ready and remain confident because they have some background of success. Young guys don't."

"That's definitely a trade-off," Valaika said. "Getting your at-bats and playing every day is important for development. But just being in the big leagues and learning from Edgar [Renteria] and Miguel [Cairo] -- guys that have been there and done that -- I think that's important as well."

Reborn as pitcher, Gil impressing Reds

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Four springs ago, Jerry Gil was in Reds camp trying to make the team as an extra infielder or outfielder. His rocket arm was impressive. Gil's bat? Not so much. By May of 2007, Gil needed Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and missed most of the year.

In the middle of 2008, the Reds converted Gil into a pitcher, and he went back to the beginning of the system in Gulf Coast League and Class A.

"I feel way better than when I started pitching my first couple of years," Gil said on Thursday. "I felt like my arm was going to fall apart. It hurt a lot in the beginning. But I got used to it and now I feel better. I thought pitching would be easy, but it's not that easy. You have to work hard."

Gil, 28, is in camp this spring as a non-roster invite. Once again, the arm impresses.

"He's throwing the ball good," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "The trainers told me he's working harder now as a pitcher than he was as a position player. I was talking to him this morning and he said, 'Hey man, you've got to keep your arm right and work hard to keep [your] legs right.' He made a pretty quick transition. He's risen up the ranks rather quickly."

Gil, who has reached speeds of 95-97 mph, threw live batting practice to hitters on Wednesday and looked pretty good. He's had issues with control since becoming a pitcher. Over 178 2/3 Minor League innings, he has 148 walks compared to 126 strikeouts.

"The main point for me is to throw strikes," said Gil, who was 5-6 with a 4.81 ERA in 47 games at Double-A and Triple-A. "If I throw strikes, control my breaking pitch, I think I'm going to make it."

Votto feels sick but able to work out

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- First baseman Joey Votto reported upper respiratory issues after Wednesday's workout and was almost unable to participate on Thursday.

"I told him to come in at 8:30, let them analyze you and send you back home," Reds manager Dusty Baker said before Thursday's workout. "He was feeling terrible."

Votto was checked over by the medical staff Thursday morning but felt better and was cleared to take part in the workout.

Worth noting

Thursday was Bronson Arroyo's 34th birthday. ... After the workout, Sam LeCure, Mike Leake, Travis Wood and head trainer Paul Lessard were scheduled to play in a Reds and Indians hosted charity golf event at Golf Club of Estrella. Proceeds benefited the "H.O.P.E. team," a non-profit group that supports patients and families of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Goodyear.