01-25-2007, 08:37 PM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Around The Horn: Outfielders
CINCINNATI -- During his storied 18-year Major League career, Ken Griffey Jr. has logged 2,113 games played in center field.
In that same span, Griffey has spent exactly six games in the corner outfield spots -- three each in right and left field.
Therefore, it would be noteworthy if and when Griffey makes the shift out of center field. And that time could be as soon as this spring. The Reds and the 37-year-old future Hall of Famer have discussed the idea of his moving over to right field.
The notion is that right field would provide less wear and tear on the body, especially with less running. Griffey has been hampered by leg injuries that have cost him numerous games since he arrived in Cincinnati from Seattle in 2000.
"We'll all go to Spring Training with an open mind," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "We'll see which makes us a better team. I think Junior and the organization are open-minded. No one has a crystal ball."
Griffey, who is tied for 10th with Reggie Jackson on the all-time list with 563 home runs, hasn't played 145 games since 2000. He was limited to 109 games in 2006, when he batted .252 with 27 home runs and 72 RBIs for Cincinnati.
A strained biceps tendon in his right knee in April put Griffey on the disabled list for a month. A dislocated right toe suffered in early September limited him to just two pinch-hit at-bats over the Reds' final 24 games.
"The main thing with Junior is we want to make sure we put him where he's going to be on the field as much as possible," Reds manager Jerry Narron said in December.
From his point of view, Griffey is going into camp as the starting center fielder. He felt moving to right field wouldn't lessen the demands on his body.
"It's going to be the same either way," Griffey said in December. "I've got to prepare myself to go out there and play 162 games and that's it."
If Griffey does move to right field at some point during Spring Training or the season, Ryan Freel and Chris Denorfia are the two leading in-house candidates to take over.
Regardless of where he plays, the Reds' offense will need Griffey's bat.
"It's huge," Krivsky said. "You saw when his bat was missing the last month of the season, it affected the whole lineup. We're counting on him to be healthy and a key contributor in helping us score runs."
All eyes will also be on Griffey's left hand, which he broke just before the December holidays in an accident at home. Medical reports indicate the hand is healing well and that Griffey will be ready for Spring Training.
Should Griffey remain in center field, right field could be a revolving door among several players. Freel, a utility player who can play several positions well, might see a bulk of the playing time. Also in the mix will be new acquisitions Jeff Conine and Bubba Crosby, Denorfia and Norris Hopper.
Rule 5 Draft acquisition and former overall No. 1 draft choice Josh Hamilton will be vying to stick on the 25-man roster as a reserve outfielder. So will non-roster invite Dewayne Wise, who split last season with Cincinnati and the Minors.
All have the ability to play two outfield spots, at the minimum.
"We have a lot of guys that can play right field and left field or left, center and right. We have guys that play all over," Krivsky said. "It's very unlikely we'll have a set lineup for 162 games. It gives the manager more options, depending on who's pitching against us on a given night. It's important to have that kind of versatility. Guys that play more than one position are a plus."
Adam Dunn's name went through the Hot Stove grinder as potential trade bait early and often during the offseason. But Dunn is returning as Cincinnati's left fielder.
Even though Dunn is coming off hitting 40 homers for the third consecutive season, 2006 was a disappointment. The 27-year-old batted .234 with 92 RBIs, including .174 in August and September as the club faded from playoff contention. Although he had a National League leading 112 walks, Dunn still led the Majors with an astounding 194 strikeouts.
New hitting coach Brook Jacoby, who worked with Dunn in the Minors a few years ago, is expected to help bring improvement this year.
Defensively, Dunn committed 13 errors, up four from 2005, and often had trouble on his routes while chasing fly balls.
"I think Adam knows what he needs to work on to be a better all-around player," Krivsky said. "I'm confident he's taken those steps. Not to single out one player, everyone has to work on parts on their game."
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