Bowden, Aaron Boone discuss second base
Move would keep Larson at third
By Hal McCoy
e-mail address: email@example.com
Dayton Daily News
CINCINNATI | Aaron Boone walked into General Manager Jim Bowden's office Monday as the Cincinnati Reds' third baseman and emerged a few minutes later as the team's second baseman.
This isn't the old Abbott & Costello routine, Who's on First? (that's still Sean Casey). This is a case of finding a second-base replacement for traded Todd Walker with the least amount of disruption.
Boone was in town Monday to have his shoulder examined and popped in to see Bowden. That's when Bowden dropped The Second Base Plan on Boone, who was receptive.
Boone's father, manager Bob Boone, was home in California and unaware that his son would be told of the plan Monday, "Although it is something we have discussed."
When the Reds traded Walker (.299, 42 doubles) to Boston during baseball winter meetings in December to save $3 million, manager Boone said third baseman Brandon Larson had priority at second base and had worked at the position after the season during the instructional league.
The club now believes moving Boone to second and keeping Larson at third is easier, even though Boone hasn't played the position played so well by his older brother, Bret.
"We're going to look at it this spring," said manager Boone. "If Aaron can do it, that will give us the least amount of resistance (from other players like Larson and Barry Larkin). Aaron can make the switch. He is an athlete and should, but you don't know. We have to see how he turns the double play.
"I do know he'll cover that huge hole we had to the left side of second base," Boone added, referring to Walker's limited range.
"We can leave Larson at third so that he doesn't have to learn how to hit and play a new position at the same time in the big leagues."
It isn't a done deal.
Boone said at least four players will begin spring training working some at second base — Boone, Larson, newly acquired Felipe Lopez and Larkin.
"But we can't force it, can't force anybody to change, that would be counter-productive," said Boone, meaning it is unlikely Larkin will agree to a switch from shortstop.
"There are a lot of things we have to find out during spring training and we'll look at third hard," he added. "We think Aaron can do it. Edgardo Alfonso made the move and Aaron is a better athlete. There are a lot of scenarios, but we'll figure out the best way to go. I know we have a Gold Glover (Boone) at third base. If we go the avenue of playing Aaron at second, I don't want to have to make a defensive switch in the seventh inning and move Aaron back to third. That wouldn't be fair to him."
It is ironic that Larson is now so much in the mix that the club would move Boone. Larson, 26, was the team's No. 1 draft pick in 1997 but fell from grace and wasn't protected after the 2001 season. Any team could have claimed him, but none did and Larson signed a minor-league contract for 2002.
After undergoing Lasik surgery, Larson tore up Class AAA pitching at Louisville, hitting .340 with 25 homers and 69 RBIs in only 80 games before he was promoted on July 11. With Larkin out with injuries, Boone moved to shortstop and Larson played well at third base, well enough to earn a chance in the lineup for 2003.
"We will do a lot of mixing and matching during spring training, but Aaron is pretty pumped up about making the change," Boone added. "Whatever is best for the team. . .we have a whole lot of guys on our team who are that way."
What the club really needs, though, are a couple more starting pitchers and Boone knows it.
"Nothing that about $20 million wouldn't solve toward getting us those pitchers," Boone said. But there is no $20 million.
Contact Hal McCoy at firstname.lastname@example.org
[From the Dayton Daily News: 01.07.2003]