Kearns playing every day, wants to keep it that way
By Hal McCoy
ST. LOUIS — A happy right fielder is a contented right fielder is a productive right fielder is an Austin Kearns.
Because he is playing every day, Kearns is as happy as a country boy in a barnyard and the Reds' right fielder is into full-bore production — .291, 12 homers, a team-leading 38 RBIs, 15 doubles.
Because Kearns has started 55 of the team's first 57 games, manager Jerry Narron didn't have him in the starting lineup Sunday. Kearns saw it and quickly talked his way into the lineup, a fortuitous event for the Reds when Kearns hit two home runs to help the Reds beat Houston, 6-4, in 11 innings.
"I had a day off our last game at home," said Kearns. "I've had plenty of days off, too many days off, the last two years. I'm rested."
That was because of injuries and because the Reds kept forcing him to share right field. He no longer shares and he is what most baseball people thought he would be.
Narron kiddingly said he thought Kearns begged his way into the lineup because, "He didn't want his teammates dogging him about ducking pitcher Roy Oswalt."
Said Kearns, "I told him I don't care who's pitching, I want to play."
Of playing every day, Kearns said, "It has been a while and it is definitely giving me a different mind-set, a more positive outlook this year. I butted heads with some people (former GM Dan O'Brien) who aren't here any more. It was as much my fault as anyone's, because I let some things bother me. And now it's, 'Oh, well,' and you learn from it."
When Narron put Kearns' name back in the lineup Sunday, he told him, "If you get five hits, I'll ask you every time before I take you out of the lineup."
Said Kearns, "I tried." Narron, though, added that two home runs were as good as five hits.
"Oh, OK. I'm glad he settled for that," said Kearns.
Ross moves in
The first step toward David Ross catching the majority of the time was taken Monday when he was in the lineup to catch Brandon Claussen. Usually, Ross catches only Bronson Arroyo.
"He has been playing well, swinging the bat well and deserves to play more than once every five days," said Narron. "This will be the first time he's caught Claussen and we'll see if he can do something to get Brandon on a roll (3-6, 5.40)."
Jason LaRue is 0 for 26 and hitting .171, another factor in Ross's favor, but Narron said, "LaRue got off to a slow start last year and got hot about this time, so he can get hot."
Ross spent considerable time early Monday talking with Claussen and going over scouting reports.
"We'll try to get into a rhythm early," said Ross. "We talked about how he likes to attack them. The problem is knowing what a pitcher likes to throw when he is in trouble. We'll learn that and he has a good idea.
"It's hard when it's a rookie pitcher and he is afraid to shake off your signs," Ross added. "I told Claussen the more he shakes me off early the more it lets me know later in the game what he wants to throw in certain situations."
The disappearing Bahamas
Ken Griffey Jr.'s day was ruined Monday when he discovered he was in third place for National League outfielders in All-Star balloting. If he finishes in the top three, he is a starter — and he is only 20,000 votes behind second place Carlos Beltran.
Griffey appreciates the fan support, appreciates the All-Star game, but he has plans to spend the All-Star break in the Grand Bahamas with his family — and teammate Adam Dunn.
"If you go to Pittsburgh (for the All-Star game), I'm still going to the Bahamas on your boat with your family and I'm going to call you four times a day," said Dunn.
"No, you're not," said Griffey. "If I don't go (to the Bahamas), you don't go, either. In fact, I may insist that you come with me to Pittsburgh."
Two homers and sit
Ryan Freel hit two home runs Sunday, including the two-run game-winner Sunday in the 11th inning in Houston — and found himself back on the bench Monday against the Cardinals.
"With the players we have here, everybody has to play well for us all the time for us to win. So something like that is a nice problem to have (Freel on the bench)," Narron said.