Freel lacks patience, wants playing time
By Hal McCoy
Dayton Daily News
CINCINNATI — The problem surfaced during baseball's winter meetings when
former Cincinnati Reds general manager Dan O'Brien acquired second baseman Tony Womack.
A second baseman? Why a second baseman? What about Ryan Freel and Richie Aurilia. If two is a crowd at second base, what is three?
That's what Freel wants to know, not in a complaining manner, but a questioning manner. He knows O'Brien put manager Jerry Narron in a tenuous position where there isn't enough playing time for everybody.
Freel didn't start on Opening Day. But he started Wednesday against a left-handed pitcher and was on base four times, stole three bases, scored three runs and was generally a pest that Orkin couldn't handle, let alone the Chicago Cubs.
But when Thursday's lineup was posted, Freel wasn't on it.
"It's only Day 3," said Freel, sitting at his locker with a bat in his hands. "A long way to go. But I started against a left-handed pitcher, but not against two right-handers. There are more right-handers than left-handers."
Told that patience is a virtue and Narron would do everything in his power to spread the time, Freel smiled and said, "Patience. I'm not good at that, not good at patience. I've had a productive three years, but I know I'm in a tough role."
Because Freel is adept at five positions, he shifts more than desert sand. Second base. Third base. Left field. Right field. Center field.
"It's nice to be wanted and to be wanted because you are a good utility player who can play everywhere, but it's a disadvantage for a guy who would like to play every day at one position," he said. "As long as we're winning, I'm OK with it. I'm helping the team. But I also had a decent year last year getting on base and scoring runs."
Edwin Encarnacion, 1 for 8 in his first two games, was not in Thursday's lineup, his place taken by Rich Aurilia.
"Eddie is going to play and he wasn't in the lineup because he is 1 for 8," said manager Jerry Narron. "He'll play the next three days. I won't be spotting him as much this year as last year. He is going to play and he is going to be OK."
Encarnacion looked unusually nervous on Opening Day — three strikeouts and an error — but seemed more at ease in Game 2.
"The big crowd didn't make me nervous," he said. "I played in front of big crowds last year. I just tried to do too much on Opening Day and I don't know why. That was one day. I felt great (in Game 2) and I know I'll do my job this year, do a good job."
Catcher Jason LaRue will catch a bullpen session today and trainer Mark Mann said he is doing so well that no residual effects are expected. LaRue underwent arthroscopic right knee surgery March 27 and is eligible to come off the disabled list Monday, a day before the Reds open a series in Chicago.
"He should be ready to play that day," said Mann.
And manager Jerry Narron is expected to stick him into the lineup, two weeks and a day after surgery.
Deja vu for Mercker
Relief pitcher Kent Mercker gave up a two-run pinch-hit home run Wednesday to Chicago's John Mabry, pulling the Cubs to within 7-6 in a game the Reds won, 8-6.
"Did the same thing last year in my first appearance, gave up a two-run home run to Cliff Floyd," said Mercker. "Oh, well, I'll get it right. And at least President Bush knows I'm from Dublin, Oh."
Bush met Mercker on Opening Day and noted that he knew Mercker lives in Dublin, not far from Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh's new manager is Hamilton, Oh. native Jim Tracy, who was manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers before getting the Pirates job after last season.
"Obviously, I have a lot of fond memories of this area," he said. "It's neat now because I get to come back here three times a year (with the Pirates) instead of once a year (with the Dodgers)."