02/22/2006 6:52 PM ET
Notes: Tuffy finds opportunity in Reds
Narron mum on second base plans; Aurilia expects versatility
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Cincinnati native Tuffy Rhodes thought he had already played his last professional baseball game.
Rhodes, who drew attention for hitting three home runs in his first three plate appearances on Opening Day 1994 with the Cubs, was out of the Major Leagues by 1996. He was able to establish a flourishing second career in Japan, where he hit 360 home runs over the last 10 seasons.
But the 37-year-old Western Hills High School graduate was ready to return to the United States full time.
"I think all good things come to an end," Rhodes said. "To be honest, I thought I was retiring until last week. I didn't hear from anybody."
On Feb. 14, two days before camp opened, the Reds eventually offered Rhodes a Minor League contract and invited him to Spring Training as a non-roster player.
"My agent was talking back and forth with the general manager, and last week he asked me if I could get to Sarasota by Tuesday," Rhodes said after participating in Wednesday's first full-squad workout with Cincinnati. "I said no problem."
Well, one problem perhaps. With most of his baseball equipment still in Japan, Rhodes needed to borrow some stuff. One teammate loaned him some shoes. Fellow outfielder Quinton McCracken provided some batting gloves.
At least Rhodes had his bats. They were inside a bag with a Kintetsu Buffaloes logo. It was the team he played for in Osaka from 1996-2003. In 2004-05, he was with the Yomiuri Giants in Tokyo.
"This bag has brought me a lot of luck," Rhodes said. "Hopefully, it still does."
Rhodes, who also played for the Astros and Red Sox in the 1990s, felt it wouldn't be too difficult re-adjusting to Major League pitching. He also acknowledged that a place on the 25-man roster was not assured.
"If I can live in Japan for 10 years, learn how to speak Japanese and learn a different culture and eat all the sushi I ate, I can do just about anything," said Rhodes, who was a .285 hitter in the Japanese Professional Leagues. "It'll be a challenge but at the same time, a great experience. Whatever happens, happens. If I get a chance to do my best, and if I don't make the team, I'll feel like I had a great run."
A former opponent of Reds center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. in Little League and high school baseball, Rhodes said his mother still lives in Wyoming, Ohio, just outside Cincinnati.
"My mother got 100 phone calls within 10 minutes," Rhodes said. "I miss everything. I miss Montgomery Inn ribs. I miss Skyline Chili. I grew up with LaRosa's pizza. Every time I go home for Thanksgiving, I realize how much I miss the city of Cincinnati."
Who's on second? Reds manager Jerry Narron would not tip his hand about his plans regarding who would play second base this season. Tony Womack, Ryan Freel and Rich Aurilia are among the candidates. Narron planned on meeting with all his veteran role players this week to share his plans for them.
"A lot of times, what you think is going to happen, doesn't," Narron said. "For me to sit here and say what I'm going to do April 1 or 2, that's a little bit too early. That's not fair to those guys."
Glove love: Role decisions may be forthcoming soon, but it sounds like Aurilia should plan on being quite flexible. When a representative from a baseball glove manufacturer stopped by the clubhouse Wednesday, he asked Aurilia if he wanted to order anything.
Aurilia, who re-signed a one-year, $1.3 million deal as a free agent last month, went to Narron to see if he should get a first baseman's glove.
"I told him to get a first base glove, a second base, shortstop, third base and outfield gloves," Narron said. "The only thing he won't need is a pitcher's glove and a catcher's glove."
Future in Florida: There are two developments in the works that could serve to strengthen the Reds' relationship with the Sarasota area.
The club is on the verge of announcing its intent to purchase the Sarasota Reds, its Class A affiliate from the Florida State League, from the Red Sox. Cincinnati currently has a player development contract with the Red Sox to run the FSL team.
More in the preliminary phase are discussions the club has had with the state of Florida and city about building a new Spring Training complex that could be shared with the Pirates. The site would be located at the Sarasota County fairgrounds, which is about two miles from the current spring complex.
Seen and heard: Every player reported on time and was on the field Wednesday for the Reds' first full-squad workout.
• Cincinnati agreed to terms on one-year contracts with catcher Dane Sardinha, outfielder Chris Denorfia and pitchers Michael Gosling, Brian Shackelford, Allan Simpson and Phillip Dumatrait.
• Pitcher Josh Hancock, released by the Reds on Saturday for reporting to camp 17 pounds overweight, signed a Minor League contract with the Cardinals and began workouts in that club's camp Wednesday as a non-roster player.
• Former Reds pitching coach Scott Breeden passed away Tuesday morning from an apparent heart attack. Breeden was a big-league pitching coach for Cincinnati from 1986-89, and also coached in the Minors from 1968-81 and 1984-85.