02/20/2006 2:02 PM ET
Narron setting clear path for Reds
Open lines of communication key to reaching goals
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Yes, Jerry Narron is entering his first full year as Reds manager and presiding over his first Spring Training with the club.
No, players haven't been wondering what they're in for or worried about the direction they might be taking.
They've already gotten a good idea about how Narron operates since he took over from Dave Miley in June.
"I think the players that were here a year ago know what to expect and what I expect," Narron said. "That part of it is the same."
Narron drove home that point just before the first workout on Saturday, with a sledgehammer. That's when he released non-roster pitcher Josh Hancock for reporting to camp 17 pounds overweight. All of Cincinnati's players were told at the end of last season to come to camp prepared and ready to work.
Yes, the 50-year-old skipper is all about business, and he also means business.
And that's how the players like it.
"Jerry seems like an old-school baseball guy," pitcher Aaron Harang said. "He likes the hard-nosed, go get 'em attitude."
"It's a matter of running a tight ship and pounding home the idea that baseball needs to be played the right way," fellow starting pitcher Eric Milton said. "The only thing he asks is you come [in] and bust your [tail]. Show up when you're supposed to. Do what you're supposed to."
Narron has spent well over half his life in baseball since the Yankees made him a sixth-round draft pick in 1974. The former catcher was a part-time player for eight seasons with New York, the Mariners and Angels from 1979-87. His managerial career commenced in the Orioles' farm system in 1989. By 1993, he was a coach on late manager Johnny Oate's staff in Baltimore and later with the Rangers.
The first crack at big league managing came when he replaced Oates in Texas for most of two seasons in 2001-02. Although Narron had superstar Alex Rodriguez on those teams, there was little in the way of a supporting cast. The Rangers finished fourth both years before Narron was let go and replaced by Buck Showalter.
Baseball lifers tend to appreciate one another for their diligence and for demanding that the game be played the right way. Maybe that's why Narron's style of operation already appears to be in sync with new general manager Wayne Krivsky's -- a longtime former scout who is entering his 30th year in the game.
"It's been fantastic," Krivsky said. "I couldn't ask for anything better. He's been great. We're very much on the same page with just general philosophy. ... I'm extremely confident we're going to have an outstanding working relationship."
When Miley was running the team from 2003-05, he preferred to remain in his office and not mill about the clubhouse too often. Some players felt the former manager wasn't a great communicator when it came to identifying his objectives, or players' roles.
Under Narron, players definitely know what he's thinking.
"Jerry has the respect of everybody on this team," utility player Ryan Freel said. "I don't think I've ever heard a bad thing said about Jerry by my teammates. He's a very personable guy. [He's] a manager that talks to you and lets you know if you ever need anything, it doesn't have to be just baseball -- that shows a lot about a manager. It makes a player feel more relaxed and not tight."
Not every exchange with Narron is guaranteed to be a pleasant one. That often comes with the territory when getting business done is the No. 1 objective.
"Jerry is a very credible guy," pitcher Brandon Claussen said. "He lives what he talks. I completely respect that. Sometimes, he may say something to you that you don't want to hear. But it's the truth. Sometimes that will prune you back a little bit. But when you get pruned, you always grow more fruit."
"I'm a guy that believes in treating everybody with respect and honesty," Narron said. "Everybody in that clubhouse knows that I'll do that with them."
The Reds went 27-43 under Miley last season before improving to 46-46 after Narron was promoted from bench coach to manager. Did his straightforward approach equate to more wins? Could it lead to more victories in 2006?
"Absolutely," Freel said. "For the most part, we played good under Jerry."