Narron: 'Somebody will be mad. That's fine ... I can take it'
By Hal McCoy
Dayton Daily News
CINCINNATI | As head coach of the Goldsboro (N.C.) Rosewood girls high school basketball team, Cincinnati Reds manager Jerry Narron was squirmy during baseball's early-December winter meetings in Dallas.
His team was 2-0 at the time, with three games scheduled during his absence. While he was at the meetings, the team went 1-2.
After he returned, Rosewood won six straight and is now 9-2, "And we beat one of the teams that beat us while I was gone, so maybe it was the coaching," he said with a sly grin.
Coaching girls basketball most likely takes his mind away from some upcoming problems with his baseball team — and not only the pitching.
For several seasons, a problem existed due to an overcrowded outfield and five guys wanting to play every day. If one believes that was a crowded situation, take a peek at second base when the Reds report to their Sarasota camp in mid-February. It is more crowded than a bank teller's window where free money is being passed out.
There is Ryan Freel, Tony Womack, Rich Aurilia, Ray Olmedo and William Bergolla all going to sleep at night dreaming of turning double plays on a steady basis with shortstop Felipe Lopez.
What is a manager to do?
"First of all, I don't like to see jobs handed to kids, they have to earn them," Narron said.
His reference was to 23-year-old third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who was called up from Class AAA Louisville on July 23 when Joe Randa was traded, but it includes Olmedo and Bergolla at second base.
Encarnacion played third base the rest of the season and hit .232 with nine homers in 211 at-bats, but struck out 60 times and was a defensive liability with 10 errors, mostly on throws.
"It will be awesome to see Encarnacion come back, but it's also awesome to see Richie (Aurilia) come back because he can play third, short and second," Narron said.
Aurilia, a free agent who re-signed with the Reds at the last possible moment, wanted some assurances he would play second base. He didn't get them, although he could win the position during spring training.
Of Freel, Narron said, "He is a special guy who is comfortable playing anywhere. We need to manufacture runs
, so having him in the lineup somewhere is important to us, and I'd like to have him in the lineup at all times."
Womack is nearly a Freel knockoff — a guy with speed who can play several infield positions and the outfield. Olmedo and Bergolla are long shots.
"I'll try my best to get 'em all (Freel, Aurilia, Womack) on the field whenever I can," Narron said. "It is outstanding to have three guys of that caliber. I know that if they all stay healthy, it is going to be tough and somebody is going to be mad. And that's fine with me, I can take it. You want guys who want to be on the field every inning."
Of his team without Sean Casey, traded to Pittsburgh, and with Adam Dunn moving to first base and Wily Mo Pena manning left field, Narron said, "I wish Casey wasn't in our division. That scares me.
"Strikeouts are definitely a concern," he added, realizing Dunn, Pena, Austin Kearns, Lopez and Jason LaRue all struck out more than 100 times last season. Ken Griffey Jr. whiffed 93 times and Encarnacion is a 100-K guy if he plays all year.
"But as we proved last year, we are capable of scoring a lot of runs (No. 1 in NL) and hitting a lot of home runs with these guys."