03/17/2006 4:40 PM ET
Notes: Sardinha's playing time dwindles
Valentin returns from Classic to take over behind plate
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Like everyone else with the Reds on Friday, Dane Sardinha was happy to have backup catcher Javier Valentin in the fold again.
But Sardinha also knew what that meant for him.
"You're kind of wondering if your playing time is going to go down," Sardinha said. "Obviously, it's going to go down."
Sardinha was a beneficiary of more innings behind the plate this spring while Valentin represented Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. He tried to make the most of the extra opportunity.
"I'm grateful I've gotten to play this much, thanks to Javier," Sardinha said. "You always wish you could play better, but I feel like I've been playing OK."
Valentin is expected to return to action for the Reds on Saturday against Pittsburgh.
Sardinha was 1-for-3 with a two-run double in a 9-2 win over Toronto, but also grounded into two double plays. For the spring, he's batted .250 (6-for-24) in 13 games.
Since making him a second-round draft pick in 2000 and signing him to a Major League contract, the Reds have liked Sardinha's strong defensive abilities.
"The more I've seen him, the more I've liked him," said Reds manager Jerry Narron, a former catcher. "I've been very impressed with the way he's received the baseball. He's a pretty good catcher. He gives a great target, sets up small and gives umpires a chance to see the pitch. He's got real good hands. He gets rid of the ball real quick."
As for Sardinha's offensive skills? Not as much.
"He's hit some balls hard," was the only compliment Narron could muster about the catcher's hitting ability.
"It's the reason why I've been stuck down in the Minor Leagues," Sardinha said.
The 26-year-old has a .234 career average in the Minors. Last season, he batted .224 with 10 homers and 36 RBIs in 86 games for Triple-A Louisville. He's played in just two Major League games -- one in 2003 and once in June of last season.
The organization would have liked Sardinha to have worked on his hitting in winter ball during the offseason, but an August knee injury prevented him from participating.
Cincinnati is unlikely to carry three catchers this season, so Sardinha is probably destined to return for his third year at Louisville. Coaches want him to try hitting the opposite way and to be more selective when ahead in counts instead of swinging at bad pitches.
"To be successful at the Major League level, you have to use the entire field," Narron said. "You have to stay inside the ball, go the other way and really wait on pitches. Hopefully, that will come for him."
Milton update: Pitching in his second consecutive simulated game in Sarasota, Eric Milton threw 76 pitches over six innings Friday. He allowed one run and five hits and tested his strained right calf by successfully fielding some bunts.
"He felt fine. Everything was positive," general manager Wayne Krivsky said upon hearing the report.
The club will see how Milton's leg feels Saturday before determining if he'll pitch in an exhibition game.
Junior watch: There is no word yet on when Ken Griffey Jr. would rejoin the Reds after Team USA was eliminated by Mexico from the World Baseball Classic on Thursday. Narron didn't feel that the center fielder needed to hurry back in order to catch up.
"He's probably more ready than anybody we've got," Narron said.
Griffey led the Americans in several offensive categories, batting .524 (11-for-21) with three home runs and 10 RBIs.
Germano's day: Looking to make the Reds' rotation, young right-hander Justin Germano kept his bid going with a solid four-inning start against the Blue Jays on Friday. Germano allowed one run on six hits with no walks and two strikeouts. He also hit two batters with pitches.
"We were happy with Germano," Narron said. "He's done a very good job for us. The way things are right now, he's still competing for that fifth spot. He's not hurting himself."
Coming up: The Reds will split up and send two groups on the road Saturday. Lefty Dave Williams will start for the squad playing the Braves at Orlando. Germano's main rotation competitor, Gosling, is scheduled to face the Pirates in Bradenton. Both game times are at 1:05 p.m. ET.