Soto taking advantage of spring playing time

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds first-base prospect Neftali Soto has impressed manager Dusty Baker and was even a topic of conversation during lunch on Thursday's off-day. Baker's dining companion? It was friend and Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda.

"I said, 'This guy reminds me of you, that he hits the ball to right field," Baker said on Friday.

During the first inning of Wednesday's exhibition game vs. Canada's World Baseball Classic squad, Soto lined a two-out RBI single to right field.

"Orlando told me that used to be called [swinging] late," Baker said. "He said more guys should hit the ball to right field. You tend to strike out less. You tend to put more balls in play."

Soto hasn't been shortchanged from at-bats this spring and could get more with mainstay Joey Votto playing for Canada in the Classic. But Baker will also use Jack Hannahan. It was Soto who started vs. the Cubs on Friday, while Hannahan was the designated hitter.

"Especially with Joey being gone, [Soto] is the only true first baseman I have," Baker said. "That will give us a chance to put Hannahan there. He's real good at third base. He's getting better at first base."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.