Thursday, July 01, 1999
Young a hero, but not a starter
BY CHRIS HAFT
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Though Dmitri Young is going to have a difficult time regaining a prominent place in the Reds lineup, he did his best to make an impact Wednesday night.
Dmitri Young and son, Owen, 2, await the father-kids game.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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Young, replacing Sean Casey at first base only because manager Jack McKeon wanted to use all right-handed batters against Randy Johnson, belted a two-out, first-inning homer off the Arizona ace to propel the Reds to their 2-0 victory.
Young, the Reds' Opening Day right fielder, has been unable to reclaim his starting role after an early season slump. Excluding one game as a designated hitter at Kansas City, he made just four June starts before filling in for Casey. Meanwhile, Michael Tucker has established himself as the starter in right field against right-handed pitchers; Jeffrey Hammonds usually plays against lefties.
Young has tried to remain upbeat throughout. Even Wednesday's heroics didn't alter the switch-hitter's team-oriented perspective.
Young fouled off four 3-2 pitches, including a foul tip that catcher Damian Miller couldn't quite grab, before launching his second homer of the season into the third-level yellow seats.
Young made his first start of the season at first base.
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He was throwing me sliders in and fastballs away, said Young, who connected with a high slider and drove it an estimated 437 feet.
Young started 39 games at first base last year but had appeared there only once this year, in the late innings on April 28 at Philadelphia.
Casey's day off
McKeon emphasized that resting Casey, the National League's leading hitter, against Johnson was his call, not his player's.
He has no problem with him, McKeon said before Wednesday night's game. This is my choice.
Casey went 1-for-4 against Johnson on May 5 with a single, a strikeout and two groundouts. That was a tiny bump in the road for Casey, who's hitting .382.
But he understood his boss' strategy. The 6-foot-10 Johnson intimidates lefties such as Casey as naturally as he breathes.
Lefties have gone 5-for-50 against Johnson, who has faced only 11 left-handed-batting starting position players.
Colorado's Larry Walker twice sat out May games against Johnson when he led the NL in hitting.
You'd like to be in the lineup every night, but you see a lot of teams putting in all-righty lineups against Randy Johnson because he is a unique player, Casey said.
Travis Wong, the Reds' 13th-round selection in last month's amateur draft, took early batting practice at Cinergy Field as General Manager Jim Bowden watched.
The Reds have competition for the 6-6 first baseman from Timberline High School in Boise, Idaho, who has accepted a scholarship to Texas A&M. Using a handy recruiting tool of his own, Bowden introduced Wong to a fellow named Johnny Bench who happened to be hanging around the batting cage.
Bench, one of Bowden's special assistants, asked Wong if he was ready to be a Red.
Maybe, Wong said.
Maybe? Bench retorted. Is your agent standing here?
Having upheld his promise to quit smoking cigars for a day after the Reds climbed to 10 games above .500, McKeon said he resumed puffing Tuesday night. I was dying yesterday, he said.
Right-handed reliever B.J. Ryan, who was promoted from Double-A Chattanooga to Triple-A Indianapolis on Wednesday, will replace Single-A Rockford right-hander Jacobo Sequea as the Reds' representative in the inaugural All-Star Futures Game on July 11.
Besides Ryan, the Reds also promoted third baseman Brandon Larson, their 1997 first-round draft pick, from Rockford to Chattanooga. Larson was hitting .300 with 13 homers, 52 RBI and 12 stolen bases.
Third baseman Aaron Boone popped up and struck out twice, snapping his streak of consecutive games in which he had reached base safely at 25.
Brett Tomko, who has displayed refreshing durability, will face Arizona's Omar Daal in tonight's series finale.
Tomko (3-4, 5.66) has pitched six innings or more in his last four starts. Though that may not sound like much, it's only the third time this year a Reds starter has sustained this kind of staying power. Steve Avery went seven innings or more in his first five starts before Pete Harnisch had three seven-inning outings and a six-inning performance between April 20-May 7.
Daal (7-4, 3.54) has won his last four decisions but absorbed the loss in a 6-4 Reds victory May 4. The left-hander allowed six runs and seven hits in six innings that night.