Notes: Phillips might get outfield time
Crowded infield forces move; LaRue, Wilson continue rehab
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- New infielder Brandon Phillips grew up idolizing former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin. But Phillips could soon be doing something for Cincinnati that Larkin never did.
Playing the outfield.
Overloaded with middle infielders, manager Jerry Narron appeared willing to get creative in order to find Phillips playing time. Narron planned to have Phillips get some instruction from first base/outfield coach Billy Hatcher.
Only Ryan Freel and Andy Abad play the outfield now, but Freel often starts in the infield, like he did Tuesday at second base.
"Just watching [Phillips] take fly balls in BP, he looked like he could do that," Narron said Tuesday. "He won't get a start out there, but I could see him finishing a game out there for us."
The only issue for Phillips is that he's never roamed the outfield in a game before, at any level.
"Not even in Little League," said Phillips, who had a pinch-hit double Sunday in his Reds debut. "I've been out there shagging balls and it's cool. Whenever everyone else is hitting, I'm out there trying to catch the popups. That's the closest thing to outfield I've ever been."
As for getting him starts from his natural positions at second base or shortstop, Narron was still trying to figure something out, but it would probably be at shortstop when Felipe Lopez needs a day off.
"I don't like the idea of anybody just sitting there," Narron said. "With Freel, [Tony] Womack and [Rich] Aurilia, it'd be tough to start him at second. ... I hate to say it, but right now he's like a Rule 5 Draft pick. We'll try to work him in."
Phillips, 24, was open to anything he might be asked to do.
"Any way I can get in the lineup," he said. "I'd go out there and play in the outfield. It doesn't matter, as long as I'm getting playing time. It's cool with me."
In the latest test of his injured right knee, Jason LaRue caught four innings Tuesday during an extended Spring Training game at the Reds' complex in Sarasota, Fla. LaRue went 0-for-3 against a Fort Myers Red Sox squad but reported no problems with the knee, which needed arthroscopic surgery March 27 to repair torn meniscus cartilage.
Pitching four scoreless innings to LaRue was rehabilitating right-hander Paul Wilson, who allowed two hits and no walks while striking out three. Wilson, working his way back from shoulder surgery, threw 31 pitches.
Both LaRue and Wilson will be re-evaluated Wednesday.
For the fourth time in the young season, Aurilia was playing first base and batting cleanup between Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn against the Cubs.
It might seem like an odd spot, considering Aurilia is not known as a power threat like Griffey and Dunn. But Narron liked splitting the two lefty hitters with a right-hander and having someone that can drive in runs.
"He's a guy that will give you a good at-bat, whether it's against a left-handed pitcher or right-handed pitcher," Narron said. "Especially if guys are on base."
Narron has also been pleased with how well Aurilia has manned first base, a position he had little experience at before this season.
"If he played there every day as his sole position, he'd be one of the better first basemen in baseball," Narron said.
Seen and heard:
Right fielder Austin Kearns couldn't resist pointing out Tuesday morning to Dunn that he was tied for the National League lead with two sacrifice flies.
"Was there ever a doubt?" joked Dunn, who once went 1,085 plate appearances without notching a sac fly from 2003-05.
Left-hander Brandon Claussen is scheduled to start for the Reds on Wednesday against the Cubs at 2:20 p.m. ET. Greg Maddux is Chicago's probable starter.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.