Thursday, March 09, 2000

Reese still out, but don't panic


REDS NOTEBOOK

BY CHRIS HAFT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SARASOTA, Fla. — The new estimate on the rest Reds second baseman Pokey Reese will need for his sprained right ring finger ranged Wednesday from four more days to a week.

        The Gold Glove winner hurt himself in last Friday's exhibition against Minnesota when he slid headfirst into second base. X-rays taken Tuesday revealed no fracture, but his importance as leadoff hitter and defensive linchpin has created mild concern.

        That has led to inevitable rumors.

        “When I came in today, somebody said he was out two weeks,” General Manager Jim Bowden said. “I said, "Excuse me?' There's nothing to that.”

        Bowden said three to five days was a “realistic” time frame for Reese's recovery. Manager Jack McKeon said it wouldn't be disastrous if Reese didn't return until next Wednes day.

        “He'd still have 15 games (to play himself into shape),” McKeon said.

        Bowden said the timing of Reese's injury is relatively fortunate. “Obviously, this time of year you're going to play it safer rather than rush him back, because you want him in April, not March.”

        DEION WATCH: It'll happen on a nondescript diamond toward the rear of the Reds' training complex, far removed from prime time.

        It could happen as early as Sunday. Deion Sanders' return to game activity, that is.

        The outfielder, who has spent all spring rehabilitating his right knee, is ahead of schedule in his recovery from arthroscopic surgery in January. Sanders believes he can play in a minor-league scrimmage Sunday morning.

        “There's going to be a prospect on Field Z at 10:01 a.m. laying down a bunt,” Sanders said. “I'm happy. I've been busting my butt to get back out there.”

        Bowden remained skeptical about Sanders' attempt to play.

        “Based on what I've seen, I find it hard to believe,” Bowden said. “But I've never counted him out before.”

        Bowden said that Sanders won't be his old, dynamic self on the basepaths, even if he does play.

        “He certainly can't run. That's his main tool,” Bowden said. “For him to help us, he has to have that explosive speed.”

        CASEY SCRATCHED: After discussing the upcoming schedule McKeon, first baseman Sean Casey agreed to skip Wednesday night's game. This occurred a couple of hours after Casey said he felt fine one day after being hit on the outside of his right knee by a fastball from Philadelphia's Joe Grahe.

        “It's just a little tight,” Casey said. “But there's no cause for concern at all.”

        McKeon said he told Casey that Wednesday would be his last chance for a day off this week. Today's split-squad games will require virtually everybody to play, and McKeon wants Casey in the lineup for Friday night's game against the world champion New York Yankees.

        ON SMOLTZ: McKeon said the impact upon the Atlanta Braves of losing right-hander John Smoltz for the season will be considerable.

        “That's got to be a psychological jolt,” McKeon said, after hearing that the 1996 Cy Young Award winner is out with a torn elbow ligament.

        CUTS TO COME: The size of the Reds' spring training roster will become more manageable after today's split-squad games.

        Bowden said 10 players will be reassigned to minor-league camp. Most are expected to be non-roster invitees.

       



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