Deep bench key to long-term fortune
Reds: Cincinnati's roster has a few players who can play multiple positions, including utility man Ryan Freel, and infielders Rich Aurilia and Tony Womack. All are expected to rotate at second base but their versatility could stretch manager Jerry Narron's bench a little more.
Freel batted .271 with three home runs and 21 RBIs and in 103 games last season and played in a career-high 143 games in 2004. He stole 36 and 37 bases, respectively, the past two years. Besides having speed and a penchant for hustling, Freel's value was found in the five positions he played last season. The Reds signed him to a two-year, $3 million contract this winter.
Aurilia, who was brought back as a free agent in a one-year, $1.3 million deal, will probably see most of his action at second and third base. He hit .282 with 14 home runs and 68 RBIs in 114 games last year. Womack, who is coming off a poor 2005 with the Yankees (.249 with 15 RBIs), can play second base, shortstop and left field.
The Reds improved their depth at first base by signing veteran Scott Hatteberg to a one-year, $750,000 contract. Although he's coming off a down year where he batted .256 with seven homers and 59 RBIs with Oakland last season, Hatteberg is a strong on-base percentage hitter and can be tough to strikeout. His ability to put the ball in play makes him suitable for both starting and pinch-hitting duties.
Jacob Cruz led the Reds -- and the Majors -- with 20 pinch-hits last season. Also a first baseman and an outfielder, Cruz was signed to a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training. But Hatteberg's signing could make it tougher to make the team. Backup catcher Javier Valentin can also play first base and provide some pop with the bat. Valentin posted career bests in 2005 with a .281 average, 14 homers and 36 runs scored and also had 50 RBIs.
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