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A' s and Reds discussing Blanton deal

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CINCINNATI -- It appears the Reds are still trying to make improvements heading into the final week before Spring Training.

Foxsports.com first reported Thursday that the Reds are still interested in acquiring A's starting pitcher Joe Blanton, and the Cincinnati Enquirer reported on Friday that there had been talks with Oakland. However, a deal did not seem imminent.

According to the Enquirer, which did not cite a source for its story, the A's are seeking a package that could involve at least two top Reds prospects. That might mean first baseman Joey Votto or pitchers Homer Bailey and/or Johnny Cueto.

The Reds have had no interest in dealing top prospect Jay Bruce, which was a reported stopping point in talks with the Orioles about lefty Erik Bedard.

"I don't comment on any of the rumors," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said on Friday.

Cincinnati's rotation lacks established starters after Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. Bailey, Cueto, Jeremy Affeldt, Matt Belisle, Edinson Volquez and Matt Maloney are vying for the final three spots in the rotation.

Blanton, who signed a one-year, $3.7 million contract with the A's on Jan. 18 to avoid arbitration, would be a boost in the No. 3 spot. The right-hander was 14-10 with a 3.95 ERA in 230 innings pitched last season. He walked just 40 batters and struck out 140 but one red flag was his 5.11 ERA on the road compared to 2.69 at home.

The Hot Stove season of moves is nearing the end and activity is nowhere like its zenith in December. Without discussing any specific players, Krivsky said efforts to upgrade don't really end -- even this late in the offseason.

"Just like the other 29 GMs, I don't think you ever stop trying," Krivsky said. "There's no trade deadline now. If something presents itself, it can happen at any time."

Mercker comeback: The Reds did add a pitcher on Friday in familiar face Kent Mercker, who was signed to a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training for a potential comeback.

Mercker last pitched during the 2006 season, when he was 1-1 with a 4.13 ERA in 37 relief appearances before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery on his left elbow in August 2006. The 40-year-old did not pitch last season but never formally retired.

Krivsky did not dispatch anyone to watch Mercker throw, but the pitcher has told him and medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek that he's been throwing pain free.

"Because of the relationship we have, we're pleased to have him come down and compete for a job," Krivsky said. "He's excited to come back."

Mercker has pitched 17 seasons for nine clubs, including Cincinnati (1997, 2003, 2005-06) and has a 4.16 ERA in 677 games. In 253 appearances over his last four seasons, he has a 2.95 ERA. Spring TV: FSN Ohio announced that it will televise three Reds Grapefruit League games during Spring Training, including March 10 at the Yankees (7:15 p.m. ET), March 17 vs. the Tigers (1:05 p.m. ET) and March 24 vs. the Blue Jays (7:05 p.m. ET).

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