Despite strong '12, Hoover fighting for role

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Even though he wowed the Reds last season as a rookie, reliever J.J. Hoover realizes that securing a spot in the crowded bullpen will be no easy feat. Cincinnati, which had the best bullpen ERA in the Majors in 2012, has more quality arms than roles available.

Hoover, 25, was 1-0 with a 2.05 ERA in 28 appearances last season. He walked 13 and struck out 31 in 30 2/3 innings.

"Last year was a big learning experience being called up," Hoover said. "It was my rookie year. I was learning how to be in the big leagues and how to stick. But as far as I'm concerned, last year is over. I'm going to take the knowledge I got from last year and try to apply it to this year. We have a lot of guys in camp fighting for that spot. It's a competition and I'm excited for it. I will try to let my pitching speak for itself."

In three outings this spring, Hoover has given up five hits and one run over 3 2/3 innings. He entered Sunday's game against the Royals with the bases loaded and two outs. He fought into a lengthy 3-2 count with Xavier Nady before surrendering a lined two-run single up the middle. Another RBI single followed, with the run also charged to Kyle Lotzkar. Hoover returned for the seventh and worked a 1-2-3 inning.

Hoover is experiencing his first Reds Spring Training. He was acquired in a trade from the Braves at the end of camp last year for third baseman Juan Francisco.

"I kind of knew I wouldn't crack that 'pen last year," Hoover said. "Just being around the big league guys was exciting. This year here, I feel more part of the team. I have familiarity with all the guys in this clubhouse. It's more comfortable."