Manager: Don't look for Griffey to play every day
By Hal McCoy
Dayton Daily News
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Reds manager Jerry Narron leaned against a wall down the right-field line in Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla., late last week, surveying the guys taking batting practice who will wear the new Cincinnati Reds uniforms this season.
Are they good? Are they improved? Will they play the game the right way — something of which Narron insists?
Narron and Dayton Daily News baseball writer Hal McCoy discussed the major issues surrounding the 2007 Reds. Here are McCoy's questions, and Narron's answers:
Q Where has this team improved the most?
A "I love our defense, really love it. We improved defensively in the middle of the field. When you add (shortstop) Alex Gonzalez, that's tremendous. With Brandon Phillips at second, we're going to catch the ball in the infield. And Ryan Freel is going to cover a lot of ground in center field."
Q Have you seen improvement in the team's situational hitting and hitting with runners in scoring position?
A "We are trying our best to do that. We've talked to different guys in different ways. New hitting coach Brook Jacoby mentioned situational hitting during his interview. Any time you have a team that strikes out a lot, it makes you look like a poor situational team. We have to put the ball in play. The West Coast trip last year (1-8), if we put the ball in play on the ground a couple of times, we would have won a couple more games and that might have put us in the playoffs."
Q Will outfielder Josh Hamilton, as the fourth outfielder, get a lot of playing time?
A "At the first of the season, I don't know. But as the season progresses and runs its course, he'll get more and more just with the history we have here (of injuries) to Ryan Freel and Ken Griffey Jr., trying to keep them rested and healthy."
Q What is the key for this team to compete in the National League Central?
A "Health, no. 1, without question. The other thing is (Springfield's) Dustin Hermanson at the end of the game (as the closer). Kyle Lohse in the no. 3 spot is big. And we have to get years as good or better than we got a year ago from the guys who were here. Then we have a chance."
Q How important is Ken Griffey Jr. playing right field and batting fourth to this team's success?
A "There is no doubt in my mind that if Griffey could play 140 to 150 games, he would hit 45 home runs. The big thing is getting him on the field and keeping him healthy. He doesn't have to play 150 games to help us. He probably won't be out there for more than 110 and that's why we want him in right, to keep him healthy and productive."
Q Have you seen all-around hitting improvement from Adam Dunn, more than the home run swing?
A "I have seen it, although some people may have not. I know how hard he has worked this spring from the time Brook Jacoby showed up in Texas this winter and worked with him. And they worked together every day here. I know how much he wants to have a complete season, not just five months. I've seen him approach more toward hitting the ball the other way and I know what Brook's approach is. If he'll stick with him and keep grinding it out with Brook, he'll have a real big year."
Q Have you seen defensive improvement from third baseman Edwin Encarnacion?
A "His throws are much better, his major problem. We know if he sets his feet, he throws better, and if he keeps his glove up he throws better. If he does that, he is mechanically sound and his throws are fine. And he works on it. That gives him a chance."
Q Are you comfortable with the pitching?
A "With Mike Stanton and David Weathers, two veteran guys, at the back of our bullpen, guys who have done everything, I'm absolutely comfortable with that. Our big key is Dustin Hermanson (closer) and we all have confidence in him because he knows how to pitch, pitched in big situations and relishes the ninth inning. Lohse has a great arm and will give us some great games and we just have to get him to be more consistent. (Matt) Belisle has looked outstanding this spring and deserves this chance (to be the fifth starter). We have to get some improvement from Eric Milton.
"He has the arm to get people out and he just has to make some adjustments to where he pitches backward more — use his change-up and off-speed stuff more. If he does that and keeps the ball down, he has a chance."