Catcher Ross plays in simulated game

Catcher Ross plays in simulated game

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Injured Reds catcher David Ross inched closer to returning when he played in a simulated Minor League game at the team complex on Thursday.

Ross, who has yet to play an exhibition game because of lower back spasms, had one hit in five plate appearances, but did not catch.

"I feel good," Ross said. "I hit a double, ran and slid."

The Reds will have Ross catch four innings in a Class A Minor League game on Friday. With just over a week until camp breaks, it remains uncertain whether Ross will be ready for Opening Day. If not, he will start the season on the disabled list.

"That is the question. I have no idea," Ross said. "I'm trying to get as much done as soon as possible. I want to catch for some of the guys, too."

If Ross does start on the DL, the Reds would likely go with Javier Valentin and non-roster invitee Paul Bako behind the plate -- if the season started today.

However, rumors have buzzed around the complex that the Reds are seeking catching help elsewhere. They are one of multiple teams that inquired about trading for the Rangers' Gerald Laird. But Texas isn't interested in dealing Laird and appears likely to go with him as its No. 1 catcher.

A Major League source said that free-agent catcher Humberto Cota, who was cut from the Nationals this week, offered his services to the Reds. Cota was told that Cincinnati wasn't interested.

Bako entered Thursday batting .304 (7-for-23) but batted .209 or lower the past two seasons. Valentin entered the day hitting .227 (5-for-22) this spring and has not caught regularly for an extended period. Ross batted .203 with 17 home runs and 39 RBIs in 112 games last season.

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