Freel watches, waits and wonders about role
Fan favorite utility player wants to stay, but thinks he might be traded
By Hal McCoy
Sunday, March 09, 2008
SARASOTA, Fla. — Ryan Freel sits at his locker and senses his dilemma.
His position isn't center field. His position isn't second base. His position isn't right field.
His position is precarious.
He sees Norris Hopper. He sees Jay Bruce. He sees the Cincinnati Reds bring in Corey Patterson. He hears manager Dusty Baker say, "Who is having a better camp than (rookie outfielder) Chris Dickerson?"
And Freel wonders where he fits in all this, if he does.
Freel sat it out Saturday, March 8, with a minor contusion on his left wrist while the Reds beat up the Atlanta Braves 13-8 in another wind-blown extravaganza.
Freel loves it in Cincinnati, knows things are getting better and better. And he would like to be part of the baseball renaissance, but is there room at the inn? Probably not. He sees younger players making less money and two-and-two doesn't add up to five.
He isn't demanding a trade, but if the Reds have no plans for him, he wouldn't kick a fuss about a trade. And there have been rumblings about a possible deal.
"You can't help but look around — I've been around the game awhile now — and I can look around and see what is going on," he said. "I can see what they're trying to do and, hey, they're going in the right direction.
"When you get to a point in your age (32) and you see what's around you, one second you are at the top of their list and the next thing you know you don't know where you stand," Freel added. "You get an idea of how they're using guys and playing guys."
Freel has never come to camp with a job, never been told, "You're the guy." It is because of his versatility, his ability to play everywhere. That helps him when that type of player is needed. It hurts him when a younger, cheaper guy can do the same job.
"There are some guys on this team who can flat-out play, and it's all about winning right now," he said. "It's not about what is going on with me, but as an individual, what is going on in my head, I'm thinking, 'What's going to happen next?' I wonder what their options (are) and what they're thinking about me."
Manager Dusty Baker and General Manager Wayne Krivsky say Freel is an important piece to the puzzle and should continue to do what he does best — play baseball with reckless abandon, dirty up and tear up his uniform. But Freel looks around and sees too many pieces for the puzzle.
"I hope I'm a part of this team because they are going in the right direction, no doubt, and you want to be a part of that," he said. "But as I sit here (Saturday morning), I wonder, 'Where will I be next?' I have a gut feeling about what is going on, but I just have to wait and see."