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Notes: Reds add Hermanson to mix

Notes: Reds add Hermanson to mix

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Add one more name to a crowded pool of relievers trying to earn a spot on the Reds pitching staff.

Veteran right-hander Dustin Hermanson was signed to a Minor League contract on Thursday and invited to Spring Training as a non-roster player. Hermanson was scheduled to fly to Sarasota on Thursday night and be in camp Friday.

"He's a good guy to take a chance on, in our opinion," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said.

Hermanson, who will earn $500,000 this year if he makes the team, had 34 saves and a 2.04 ERA for the White Sox in 2005. Lower back inflammation forced him out late that season during Chicago's run to a World Series title.

The injury kept the 34-year-old Hermanson on the disabled list for most of 2006. He worked just six games last September for the White Sox.

A Springfield, Ohio native, Hermanson has pitched in parts of 12 Major League seasons for six clubs and is 73-78 with a 4.21 ERA lifetime. Wanting to show he was healthy again, he auditioned for several scouts this winter. Reds assistant GM Scott Nethery was among those who got a look in mid-January.

"He was in good shape," Krivsky said. "We weren't too concerned with velocity at that point. Veterans, they're not throwing at peak velocity that time of year. Just the freedom of his arm, and that physically we were in good shape, that was the main thing."

Until closer Eddie Guardado's estimated midseason return from elbow surgery, Cincinnati is searching for someone to take the ninth inning. David Weathers, Mike Stanton, Todd Coffey and Bill Bray are among those vying for the spot. Veteran Kerry Ligtenberg was also added as a non-roster player Feb. 14.

"He'll have his work cut for him to make the team," Krivsky said of Hermanson. "We'll just throw him into the mix and see how it works out. He's got experience closing. He's got experience setting up."

What rust?: With gusting winds blowing out during Thursday's 9-7 Reds win over the Pirates, home runs had little trouble clearing the fence. Earlier in the game, Reds catcher David Ross and outfielder Josh Hamilton were trying to keep count.

"You missed one," Hamilton confidently told Ross. "You haven't counted mine yet."

In his next at-bat in the seventh inning, Hamilton made good and displayed some of the power the club hoped the 25-year-old would still have.

With two outs in the seventh, Hamilton launched an Allan Simpson slider over the estimated 30-foot batter's eye in straightaway center field for a two-run homer. An estimated distance of the impressive shot wasn't available, but it was clearly not a wind-aided homer.

"First [homer] in 4 1/2-5 years. Wow, it's amazing," Hamilton said of his blast. "Connecting with the ball, watching it go, hearing the crowd ... man, it felt good."

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After Hamilton hit nine homers in 2002 for Class A Bakersfield, injuries and suspensions for substance abuse kept the 1999 first overall draft pick out of baseball from 2003-2006. The only 15 games he played in that four-year span came for the Devil Rays' Class A affiliate at Hudson Valley last summer.

"Man, it was good to be back under the sun, playing, and being in the dugout with teammates," said Hamilton, who played right field and was 2-for-4 in the game.

Cincinnati would risk losing Hamilton if it doesn't keep him on the 25-man roster all season. Reds manager Jerry Narron said that Hamilton is going to get all the swings he needs to catch up and try and earn a spot out of camp.

"That's not going to change if he goes 0-for-50. He'll still get at-bats," Narron said before the game. "At some point, it'll click for him. He's got too much ability for it not to click."

Milton's day: A total of seven home runs were hit in the game. Reds starter Eric Milton gave up two of them, including one to leadoff hitter Andrew McCutchen in the first inning.

Milton allowed two earned runs and six hits with a walk and no strikeouts. It was his first game action since he left the mound with a bad elbow in September at Chicago. He had arthroscopic surgery on Sept. 22.

"I felt fine," Milton said. "That's all I was really looking for. I felt good and everything felt good. That's a plus. It's just getting out there and getting your feet wet again."

Wilson pleased: Right-hander Paul Wilson followed Milton and allowed two runs, one earned, and four hits in two innings with two strikeouts. Wilson also allowed one homer, but had several sharp moments.

The 34-year-old Wilson, in camp as a non-roster player, is trying to return from his shoulder surgery of June 2005. He was unable to appear in a big-league game last season, including spring exhibitions. This spring, he's throwing without limitation and enjoying it.

"I know it's early, but I was pitching like there was no tomorrow," Wilson said. "Like it was the seventh game of the World Series. So it's nice to have confidence you can do everything you want to do and not hurt every time you throw. I could more or less be a pitcher again. It's been a long time since I felt like that."

Griffey swings: Back at the Reds complex Thursday morning, Ken Griffey Jr. tested his left hand with his first batting practice session. Griffey, who broke the hand in December while wrestling with his kids, took six rounds of batting practice for a total of 45 swings and reported no problems.

Signings: Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, outfielder Norris Hopper, pitcher Elizardo Ramirez and infielder Jeff Keppinger were signed to one-year contracts Thursday.

'B' game: The Reds and Pirates have scheduled a 10 a.m. ET "B" game Sunday at Pittsburgh's spring complex. Bronson Arroyo will start the game for Cincinnati.

Top pitching prospect Homer Bailey will start Sunday's scheduled 1 p.m. "A" game vs. the Pirates at McKechnie Field.

Coming up: Starter Kyle Lohse will face his former team when the Reds play the Twins at Fort Myers Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Former Reds pitcher Ramon Ortiz will start for Minnesota.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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