BY JOHN FAY | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
SARASOTA, Fla. - Jerry Narron won. The Reds manager got Ken Griffey Jr. on the field and playing right field in time to have him out there for Opening Day.
That was the objective all along.
I'm not going to pretend to know all that went on behind closed doors, but Griffey's assertion that the switch from center field to right field was no big deal is horse hockey.
But Narron stuck to the plan, and Griffey acquiesced.
Griffey, by the way, went 2-for-4 with a double and made a couple routine plays in right field Saturday in the Reds' 7-0 win over Philadelphia.
When Griffey couldn't play the first three weeks of spring because of a lingering hand injury, Narron could have scrapped the plan for the switch to right and played him in center. He didn't do it for one reason: He didn't think it was best for the team.
The other factor here is the people above Narron, general manager Wayne Krivsky and CEO Bob Castellini, gave him the authority to make the call. There was no going over Narron's head - something that often happened to managers in the previous regime.
Narron didn't take the biggest decision of his Reds managerial tenure lightly.
"It's something that's been talked about a long time," he said. "I'm a fan of the game. I love the game. I know the history of the game."
"I understand what it means when someone's played one position for 17, 18 years," Narron added.
"That part of it is difficult."
In the end, the decision came down to the fact that Narron believes Ryan Freel is a better center fielder than Griffey at this stage of his career.
"The baseball part of it, I just had to strictly go on what I thought was best for our club," Narron said. "My job is to do what's best for the team, or what I think is best for the team. I'm not taking it lightly. I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something. I talked to managers I have a lot of respect for, past and present. To a man, everybody said: 'Do what you feel is best for the Cincinnati Reds.' That's what I'm always going to do."
Narron gets beat up on a nightly basis on talk radio and Internet fan forums for various moves. Double switches and making out the lineup are a small part of what makes a manager successful or unsuccessful.
"Managing would be easy - I shouldn't say easy - but it would be easier if you could play it like a video game," Narron said. "There's a lot to it. It's not a video game. We're dealing with different personalities. We're dealing with huge egos at times, not all the time."
Egos are as much a part of baseball as batting averages and ERAs.
"You don't get to this level without having a lot of pride, a lot of desire and being a great competitor," Narron said. "That's not just Junior - I'm talking about everybody."
It's pretty clear that Griffey preferred to stay in center. Narron said the Reds were willing to try to that - until time ran out.
That's when Narron forced the issue. First, he said Griffey was going to have to play some games in spring or start the season on the disabled list. Then he said those games would be in right field.
Saturday probably was the drop-dead date for Griffey to play if he didn't want to start the season on the DL.