Reds' Denorfia doing what he can to make roster
Outfielder works hard, knowing 2006 success guarantees nothing.
By Hal McCoy
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
SARASOTA, Fla. Chris Denorfia's hopes are as high as his baseball pants, which he wears just below the knees with two legs full of red socks showing.
But he knows he is on the bubble, hoping it doesn't burst.
Cincinnati Reds manager Jerry Narron says four outfield positions are occupied by Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Ryan Freel and Jeff Conine, and that at this moment, he leans toward keeping only five outfielders.
That leaves Denorfia to argue with Josh Hamilton, Norris Hopper, Bubba Crosby and a few other outsiders for that one spot.
Denorfia, who signed a one-year contract on Tuesday, realizes that the fact he hit .349 in 312 at-bats for Class AAA Louisville last season and he hit .283 in 106 at-bats for the Reds (.343 in September) carries about as much water as a thimble with a hole in it.
Narron loves Denorfia, but roster spots are limited.
"He is a very good defensive outfielder (named the best defensive outfielder in the International League by Baseball America) and he has shown he can hit in Triple-A," said Narron. "I hate to say one (outfielder) is better than another, but he has a chance to make the club with a chance to contribute.
"I love his makeup, and there isn't a lot about Chris Denorfia any of us don't like," Narron added. "He comes to play every day, always stays ready. He has to have some things fall in place for him to be a regular outfielder, but definitely somewhere down the line, if not here, he has a chance to be a good major-league player."
Denorfia is doing everything in his domain that he can, like buying a house in Sarasota and coming to the City of Sarasota Sports Complex five times a week since New Year's Day.
"For a while it was just me and Joey Votto coming here," he said.
And despite his success with the bat, he is working daily on changes to his swing with new hitting instructor Brook Jacoby.
"We have the new coaches putting their programs in, so when it is working, it is going great so far," said Denorfia. "I'm working on keeping my hands back so I don't shift my weight too far back."
As for his situation, he takes Narron's compliments in stride.
"There is a lot of competition, and I have to prove myself as a player every day," he said. "I have to do that to stick in the big leagues and to be successful. You can't tell what will happen, especially before the exhibition games start, so I'll work hard and keep an open mind."
Denorfia, 26, has spent four years in the minors and has played in 67 major-league games, but he isn't one who claims he has nothing more to prove in the minors.
"It's all about getting better, no matter where I play," he said. "It's all about working. I don't have any illusions that I'm as good as I'll ever be. I know I can get a lot better, so whether it's getting better here or in the minors, it isn't about proving (it to) myself."