Monday, February 15, 1999
INFIELD: How fast can kids grow?
Before you get too excited about Sean Casey, Pokey Reese and Aaron Boone blossoming at first, second and third base, respectively, keep three other names in mind: Eduardo Perez, Jon Nunnally and Chris Stynes. Like Casey, Reese and Boone, they were projected to be mainstays last year after displaying part-time promise in 1997.
This offseason, the Reds bought themselves some helpful insurance against repeat collapses by re-acquiring veterans who could fill in as often as necessary. Competition will be spirited as Hal Morris pushes Casey and Mark Lewis and Jeff Branson keep Reese and Boone focused.
Expect the kids to open the season as the regulars. But only after they've earned that status.
It's easy to be optimistic about Casey. Every baseball expert is. His .272 average last year in his first extended major-league action reflected not only his skill but his ability to adjust. He hit .300 with seven homers and 43 RBI after the All-Star break.
Reese faces a tougher challenge. A natural shortstop, he must prove that he can switch adequately to second base, which can be a complex transition. The Reds know that Reese can't match predecessor Bret Boone's offensive punch, but hope that he can improve upon his .228 career average.
Aaron Boone surged at the end of last season, batting .292 after July 31, but can improve defensively. He committed seven errors while recording a fielding percentage of .950.
The shortstop is Barry Larkin. Enough said.
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