GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Clay Zavada, the relief pitcher with the handlebar mustache, is hoping this time will be the charm.He's already had two setbacks in Major League Baseball: The first was when his father died, derailing the start of his career. The second was Tommy John surgery on his left elbow two years ago when he was just settling down in the D-backs organization. Now he's starting over with the Reds, on a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league camp. "It's good to be on somebody's radar," he said on Tuesday. Zavada is certainly on Dusty Baker's radar. The veteran manager said he sat Zavada down for a long conversation on Monday, just to get a handle on his life and perspective. He found that Zavada is a farm boy from Illinois with an infectious and upbeat personality. "He went through some tough times," Baker said. "I had a good, long talk with him about stuff he went through family-wise, loss of his dad and hurting his arm. He's back throwing the ball good." Zavada called 2011 "a wash," pitching for Arizona's Double-A Mobile club. He tossed 60 1/3 innings, but the D-backs didn't want him back. They didn't even ask. His big league experience is 49 games, all with the D-backs during the 2009 season. He was 3-3 with a 3.35 ERA in 51 innings. In '10, he was demoted to Triple-A, where he hurt his elbow. Now all he's hoping for is another chance. He liked what he heard from Baker. "We talked about personal things," Zavada said. "My life. His life. Things like that. He's a good guy. I grew up as a Cubs fan, so I watched him as a manager there for years. I always liked his fire in the dugout. I was always curious to see how he'd be as a manager. He's everything I thought he was going to be." Baker said it's too early in the spring for Zavada's possible role to be defined, perhaps as a left-handed specialist. "These are questions right now that I don't have answers to," Baker said. "I don't even remember him pitching, although I know he has big league experience. These are things that we're here to see. We have to figure out where to place him."
Frazier prepared to fill multiple needs
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Todd Frazier knows he has to make himself valuable to cement a spot on the Reds' 25-man roster, and to that end he was out there during workouts on Tuesday taking grounders at first base and third base and flies in left field.Last year, he was called up from Triple-A Louisville on July 22 and played in 41 games, 27 at third base in place of the injured Scott Rolen. Rolen is now back from left shoulder surgery, and as a seven-time All-Star will play a lot of third base, if healthy. Former National League MVP Joey Votto is the incumbent at first base. Frazier wants to stay in the big leagues and will do what he has to. You have to pull for a New Jersey kid who uses Frank Sinatra as his walk-up-to-the-plate music at Great American Ball Park. "It's kind of funny to talk about because I don't have one position," Frazier said. "It's like a poem. I just keep going and going." But seriously now, what has Reds manager Dusty Baker told him? "To be ready for anything," said Frazier, who hit .232 with six homers and 15 RBIs after his Major League debut. "To be ready for those corner spots, no matter which one it happens to be. I'm coming in ready and need to have a good start to the spring. You have to be realistic with what you try to do during the spring. You can't go in here thinking, 'There are other people at my spot. I'm not going to make the team.' If you do what you've got to do they'll find a spot for you."
Madson content with role as closer
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- He's with a new team, in a new city, working out this spring in Arizona rather than Florida. But Ryan Madson is right where he wants to be. He's the closer for the Reds, replacing the departed Francisco Cordero.It's the first time in his eight-year career -- all with the Phillies -- that Madson has gone into the season knowing he's the man at the back of the bullpen. For that reason, he signed a one-year contract as a free agent with a mutual option for 2013 that guarantees him $11 million. "It's a good thing to know," Madson said on Tuesday after practice. "I'm just trying to get back in the groove and continue where I left off last year. I'm just trying to get ready. Not too much to get excited about right now. I just can't wait for the season to start." Madson had long been Philly's setup guy behind closer Brad Lidge, also gone from Philadelphia having signed as a free agent with the Nationals. In 2008, Lidge made good on 48 saves in 48 opportunities through the regular and postseason as the Phillies won the World Series. But right shoulder injuries to Lidge forced the Phillies to shake up their bullpen. They opened this past season with Jose Contreras as the closer, and when he was injured, the job fell to Madson, who worked through a bruised right hand and a stint on the disabled list to save 32 games in 34 chances. He finished the season with 17 consecutive scoreless appearances. This past offseason, the Phillies negotiated to re-sign Madson, but opted instead for Jonathan Papelbon, formerly of the Red Sox. The Reds then opted for Madson over Cordero, now with the Blue Jays. "We just have to start winning," said Madson, who now owns 52 saves in his career. "The real fun will come after that."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.