Plenty to choose from in battle for 2nd base
By Marc Lancaster / Post staff reporter

SARASOTA, Fla. - The Reds don't have that many position battles on the horizon during spring training, but one of them is shaping up to be a doozy.

A handful of players in camp could legitimately lay claim to the starting second base job, but as full-squad workouts began Wednesday, the race was extremely difficult to handicap.

When asked last week about the competition, manager Jerry Narron mentioned the names of Ryan Freel, Tony Womack and Frank Menechino. He forgot about Rich Aurilia, who will be in the mix at a number of positions. Also lurking somewhere on the depth chart are Ray Olmedo and William Bergolla, each of whom have seen some time at the position for the Reds in recent seasons.

All of those players probably will see time at multiple positions this spring. That helps in terms of building roster flexibility, but it doesn't figure to make Narron's job of winnowing the field very easy.

How does he plan to attack this particular problem?

"At some point over the next couple days, since we've finally got everybody in here, I'm going to meet with (Scott) Hatteberg, Womack, Freel, Aurilia, Menechino, Quinton McCracken, Tuffy Rhodes," said Narron. "I'll talk with each one of them about, as of right now, where they'd be, what their roles would be, what I'm expecting. That's going to be one of my biggest challenges, is keeping all of them sharp. It's not going to be easy. They're all veteran guys."

Not all of them will be gunning for the second base job, of course, but adding the other utility-type players in was Narron's way of avoiding the question. Pressed about who might really get time there, Narron said he couldn't answer because there's too much ground left to cover.

"A lot of times, what you think's going to happen, doesn't," he said. "So for me to sit here and tell you what I'm going to do April 1 or 2, I think it's a little bit too early. The last thing in the world is tell you how I think it's going to be and a month from now it not be that way. That's not fair."

Narron wouldn't even say if he wanted to have one regular second baseman and let the others fill in as utility players. But it sounds like the Reds are leaning toward breaking camp with a number of people capable of playing multiple positions on their roster.

"Richie came in and the Rawlings glove company's out there and he's wanting to know if he should get a first base glove," said Narron. "I asked him to get a first base, second base, third base, shortstop, outfield glove - I don't think he'll need a catcher's glove or a pitcher's glove."

PROCEDURAL MOVES - The Reds have begun reaching contract agreements with players on the 40-man roster who don't have enough service time to be eligible for arbitration.

Agreeing to terms Wednesday were catcher Dane Sardinha, outfielder Chris Denorfia, left-handers Michael Gosling, Brian Shackelford and Phil Dumatrait and right-hander Allan Simpson. All will make at least the major league minimum salary, which is $327,000 for 2006.

STILL KICKING - The Washington Times reported Wednesday that free-agent right-hander Pedro Astacio would choose between the Padres and Washington Nationals.

The Reds are known to be interested in Astacio, and they believe they're still in the running for the veteran pitcher.

PROGRAM NOTE - Former Reds closer Danny Graves will be featured on a new episode of HBO's Real Sports set to debut March 7 at 10 p.m. The show will include a segment on Graves' trip to his native Vietnam last month.