Davis: Move would help Jr.
'Wear and tear' would be less in left or right
BY JOHN ERARDI | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
The Reds' defense has come under heavy scrutiny recently. Last week, national pundits told The Enquirer that defense is one thing that may keep the team from contending for the division title through late September.
There may not be much the Reds can do in the short term, although some observers have suggested flip-flopping shortstop Felipe Lopez and second baseman Brandon Phillips, right fielder Austin Kearns and center fielder Ken Griffey Jr., or moving left fielder Adam Dunn to first base, Griffey to left and putting Ryan Freel in center. Down the road - if some team overwhelmed the Reds with a No. 1 pitcher and Dunn were to be traded - some people think Griffey would make a Gold Glove-quality first baseman.
But Eric Davis, who is arguably the greatest defensive center fielder the Reds have had, said first base is not easy.
"If you haven't played the infield, first base is a heck of an adjustment - if you're talking about wanting to be good over there," Davis said from his home in Los Angeles. "Ray Knight (then-Reds manager) wanted me to play some games at first base in '96, so I took ground balls for four or five days and then played a game. I was sore for three weeks.
"And (I had been signed) as a shortstop, so I knew what it was to field a hard-hit ground ball. But your muscles get out of practice. I wasn't used to it anymore."
Davis was 34 in '96; Griffey is 36.
Davis believes Griffey would extend his career if he moved to left or right field. Davis said it worked for him.
"I'd like to see (Griffey) switch ... not because he can't cover the ground in center, but because he won't have to continuously cover the ground," Davis said.
Davis played 56 games in left field and 66 in center for the 1990 World Series champion Reds. He began the season in center, went on the disabled list and returned May 21 as a left fielder. He was eight days shy of his 28th birthday.
The difference between the 2006 Reds and the 1990 Reds, however, is that 16 years ago the newly acquired Billy Hatcher (now the Reds' first base coach) was able to slide over to center field without any dramatic upheaval.
"It was a general consensus between me, (then-manager) Lou (Piniella) and (then-trainer) Larry Starr for me to move to left," Davis recalled. "I had a big brace on my knee - I twisted it real bad stealing third base on a muddy night - and we all knew that there'd be less strain on it playing left field, and we were right. ... You do what you have to do depending on what the team needs."
Davis said the key to changing positions is to "not look upon it as a demotion."
"If you don't look at it as a demotion, it takes the ego out of it," Davis said. "And, the truth is, it (switching to a corner outfield spot) will extend (Griffey's) career because it will be easier on his legs. When you play center, you're either involved in or backing up every play, including the left and right fielders. But when you're in left and right, there are plays you're taking off, that you aren't running. That cuts down on the wear and tear."
Davis said there is no doubt in his mind that Griffey would be an outstanding corner outfielder.
"Mostly, it's just a matter of getting used to reading the different angles," Davis said. "It's easier to read the ball in center. And in center, you're in control. In left, I had to back off for Hatcher, because he was an aggressive center fielder. But it's something you get used to the more you're out there."
STATS: Brandon Phillips is 12-for-12 on stolen bases. It is the best start by a Red since Gary Redus went 15-for-15 in 1984. ... Griffey's next home run will be his 548th, tying Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, and will give the Griffey family 700. Ken Griffey Sr. hit 152.