Friday, May 28, 1999

REDS NOTEBOOK


Williamson impresses Davey

BY CHRIS HAFT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Davey Johnson finished managing the Reds four years ago. But if he were still here,he would make rookie Scott Williamson the closer.

        Johnson reached this unsolicited conclusion after watching Williamson strike out all six Los Angeles Dodgers he faced in Thursday's eighth and ninth innings.

        “I was impressed with that last guy (Williamson),” said Johnson, the Dodgers' manager, who held the same position with the Reds from 1993-95. “I'd be able to find a spot for him. I think I'd just close with him. I wouldn't mess with him. I'd like to see him on an everyday basis.”

        Reds manager Jack McKeon reiterated his intent to divide the burden of preserving ninth-inning leads between Williamson and Danny Graves. Williamson earned saves in four consecutive appearances before Graves stopped the Dodgers in Tuesday's 3-2 victory. Graves has six saves to Williamson's five.

        Having struck out nine of the last 10 hitters he has faced (he walked a batter while striking out the side in last Sunday's ninth inning at San Diego), Williamson fits the closer's profile more closely than any other Reds reliever. The right-hander now has 37 strikeouts — which leads all Cincinnati pitchers, including starters — in 28 innings.

        But Williamson is content with his role.

        “I think everybody's a closer, other than Scott Sullivan, since he's the long man,” he said. “It depends on the situation.”

        He also insisted he's not preoccupied with strikeouts.

        “I really don't try to get caught up in that,” said Williamson, whose fastball has exceeded 95 mph. “Every guy that comes up there is a battle. I have to win all the battles I can. If you get the strikeouts, you get the strikeouts.”

Miffed Morris
        Reflecting both teams' unhappiness with home-plate umpire Paul Nauert, Cincinnati's Hal Morris was ejected after striking out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning.

        Morris swung and missed at a full-count breaking pitch from Los Angeles right-hander Alan Mills with runners at the corners and two outs. But the pitch that irked him was a 2-1 delivery that he watched. Nauert called it strike two.

        Morris yelled at Nauert from the dugout, prompting the ejection.

        “I was letting him know what I thought about it,” Morris said.

        Upon receiving the thumb, Morris sprang from the dugout to yell at Nauert from closer range.

        “You never like to lose your cool, but it happens sometimes,” said Morris, estimating that he hadn't been tossed since a 1993 game at St. Louis. “I don't (usually) argue balls and strikes. They're trying to do a job back there.”

Larkin's feat
        It didn't produce a run, but Barry Larkin's latest milestone stolen base was meaningful.

        Larkin stole third base with two outs in the eighth inning, shortly after Alan Mills wild-pitched Michael Tucker home. Larkin figured that Mills, who pitched effectively but struggled to find the strike zone, might bounce another one in the dirt. He didn't, but it was a sound gamble.

        Larkin recorded his 320th career steal, tying him with Bob Bescher for third on the franchise's all-time list. Larkin is one theft behind second-place Dave Concepcion but is still well behind leader Joe Morgan (406).

       



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