Notes: Healthy Freel out to win job
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Outfielder Ryan Freel doesn't like sitting still and couldn't wait to get to Reds camp. He's already been around for about 10 days.
"I'm excited to get going," Freel said. "It's been a long offseason."
Longer than most.
Freel had season-ending right knee surgery to repair cartilage damage in August. Add that time lost to the month he missed in the first half because of a concussion from an outfield collision, and the 31-year-old missed a total of 81 games because of injuries.
The knee rehab Freel did all winter is over, and he is ready to formally begin camp.
"I'm 100 percent. For the most part, I'm not restricted," Freel said. "I'm not jumping over fences and doing anything stupid. As far as cutting and running, I'm clear to do all of that."
This should be a pivotal camp for Freel. Last season, he slumped to a .245 average in 75 games and had a career-low .308 on-base percentage. He opened 2007 as the regular center fielder, but now is competing to keep the job against Norris Hopper and Jay Bruce, baseball's best prospect.
"I don't take anything for granted. I feel like I have to earn the job," Freel said. "I know a lot of people are talking about Jay Bruce. I know a lot of people are talking about Hopper having a great year last year. I was banged up and didn't do what I would have liked to have done, performance-wise.
"I don't think they know who the center fielder is. I don't think there's a set man there right now. It's a job that's up for grabs."
Freel, who was signed to a two-year, $7 million contract extension in April, is used to being unsettled. Until last season, he held a super-utility role and manned up to five different positions.
"I never had a position -- I don't think I do now," he said. "I'd like to play out there [in center field]. I've been a utility guy that plays every day when I'm healthy. I think there's still a utility mark next to my name anyway. It doesn't say 'Ryan Freel, outfielder.' It says 'infielder/outfielder.'"
: Along with Freel, infielder Juan Castro has been granted permission to report early because he is coming back from an injury. Castro had ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow in August.
"I'm not 100 percent," Castro reported. "I feel 80 percent. My elbow is feeling pretty good and not sore. I have been able to throw without pain."
Castro was optimistic he could be ready by Opening Day.
"It all depends on the progress," he said.
Camp cut-up: Reliever and resident humorist Kent Mercker was back in camp as a non-roster player after he took last year off. Mercker, who had Tommy John surgery in 2006, was signed to a Minor League deal last week for a potential fourth tour of duty with the Reds.
"I'm still here. They haven't sent me home yet," Mercker joked. "I talked to the general manager and everything."
Seen and heard:
Although there were no formal workouts on the reporting day for pitchers and catchers, there was activity. Hopper and Freel were among those taking swings in the cage. Several pitchers were throwing on the practice field.
Reliever David Weathers arrived with his 7-year-old son, Ryan. Later, they were on a field, with Ryan taking swings against his father.
Left fielder Adam Dunn checked in early, with his toddler son, Brady, in tow. It was a brief visit to drop off belongings at his locker.
"I'm officially here -- now I'm leaving," said Dunn, who planned to take in the Daytona 500 Sunday before returning to camp on Monday.
Right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. has already been in camp working out but was not seen around on Saturday.
Power pack time:
A 10-game Reds "power pack" ticket package will go on sale at 9 a.m. ET on Feb. 23 on reds.com. The power pack includes tickets to the March 31 Opening Day game vs. the Diamondbacks and admission to weekend three-game series vs. the Indians (May 16-18), Red Sox (June 13-15) and Cubs (Sept. 5-7).
For more information, go to the ticketing section of reds.com.