Manager gets 500th win

Sunday, August 30, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

There wasn't a lot of pomp and ceremony with manager Mark Berry's 500th win at Double-A Chattanooga Friday night.

"I didn't even know about it until I got here this morning," Berry said Saturday. "I guess it just means you've been managing a while."

Berry has been doing that -- this is his seventh year -- but he has also had his share of success. He has taken the Lookouts to the playoffs four of his six years and his record in 500-459.

"He's done an outstanding job," Reds assistant general manager Doc Rodgers said. "He's one of those loyal Reds organization guys. I've known him since we were players together."

Berry, 35, played seven seasons in the Reds organization.

While he has won on regular basis, Berry's reputation goes beyond that.

"He's a developer (of players)," Rodgers said. "He's really good with prospects. He takes the players you give him and doesn't complain. He always makes players better. We've seen that with Mike Frank and Scott Williamson this year."

Chattanooga is 34-24 in the second half of the split-season in Southern League after finishing 25-45 in the first half. The Lookouts are one game behind Mobile in West Division race.

"We've played a lot better," Berry said. "The big thing is getting Jason LaRue back. He's been the key."

LaRue, the 24-year-old catcher, continues to swing the hottest bat in the organization. He is hitting .376 in the month of August with nine doubles, two triples, four homers and 25 RBI in 23 games. He is hitting .352 with 11 HRs and 669 RBI on the year.

LaRue, the fifth-round pick in 1995, is starting to look like the Reds catcher of the future. He had hit .289 in his three minor-league seasons coming into this year.

"He was always known as an offensive player," Berry said. "But this year, he's really improved defensively."

CALL-UPS: Rodgers said no final decisions have been made on who will be called up Sept. 1.

The obvious candidates from Triple-A Indianapolis are third baseman Paul Konerko (.302, 5 HRs, 27 RBI in 28 games), outfielders Tony Tarasco (.305, 13 HRs), catcher Guillermo Garcia (16 HRs, 47 RBI), shortstop Damian Jackson (.248, 23 steals).

Any callups may be delayed while the Indians remain in the race for a playoff spot. They are currently in second place, three games behind Louisville.

LaRue was considered, but won't be called up because Garcia did so well in his brief stay with Reds. RHP Scott Williamson (4-5, 3.71 at Chattanooga and 3.48 ERA at Indy) would have been called up but a broken finger ended his season.

Jackson, who started the year with the Reds, has finally started hitting. He's hitting .367 in August with 11 doubles and nine stolen bases. Jackson's surge has raised his season average to .250. But he has made 39 errors in the 118 games at shortstop.

"He's got the tools," Rodgers said. "We've seen other guys struggle when they're sent down. In baseball, we say "bet on the tools.' The tools play."

KEARNS UPDATE: Top draft pick Austin Kearns settled in nicely with the Billings, Mont., Rookie League team.

Kearns, a right fielder, is hitting .302 with a homer, seven doubles and nine RBI. Kearns has walked 19 times in 24 games, giving him an on-base percentage of .434.

"We're really pleased with him," Rodgers said. "He's playing a new position and he looks like he was born out there. He has great instincts. He's made some great throws. You see that 93, 94 mile-an-hour pitching arm."

STRONG ARM: Left-hander Bob Madritsch, the sixth-round pick out of Point Park College in Pittsburgh, is 7-3 with 2.39 ERA at Billings and leads the Pioneer League with a 85 strikeouts in 72 innings.

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