Saturday, March 11, 2000

REDS NOTEBOOK


Wohlers' comeback racing along

BY CHRIS HAFT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

wohlers
Mark Wohlers
        SARASOTA, Fla. — Mark Wohlers won't pitch in any exhibition games, but he's still one of the Reds' biggest spring-training success stories.

        Team physician Dr. Tim Kremchek said Friday that Wohlers, a former Atlanta Braves closer who underwent elbow surgery last July 6, is two months ahead of schedule in his recovery. Pitching coach Don Gullett said Wohlers could start throwing batting practice in a few weeks, which is remarkable progress for a man originally due to resume throwing in June or July.

        “I think he's farther along than most people would anticipate,” Gullett said. “He's throwing strikes, pain-free, and looks great in the bullpen.”

        Gullett said Wohlers has eliminated the flaws in his delivery that were evident before his injury, when he lost control of the strike zone.

        “As far as I'm concerned, they're a thing of the past,” Gullett said.

        The Reds plan to restrict Wohlers from throwing breaking pitches for now. “I'd rather have him pull back a month now than have him re-injure himself and miss time during the season,” said Kremchek, who praised therapist Lonnie Soloff for hastening Wohlers' progress.

        Wohlers would have to regain form in the minors before the Reds would consider promoting him to Cincinnati.

        POKEY IMPROVES: Kremchek called Pokey Reese's right hand “much improved” and said the second baseman should be ready to resume throwing, taking ground balls, gripping a bat and perhaps even trying to swing on Monday.

        Kremchek said the swelling in Reese's ring finger has subsided, but the Gold Glove winner will undergo an MRI today for precautionary purposes.

        “But I'm not really concerned,” Kremchek said. “If this were the season, he'd probably be playing right now.”

        SUNDAY FUN: Deion Sanders and Steve Parris will be the focal points of Sunday morning's simulated game at the Reds' training complex.

        McKeon said that Sanders' participation would be “regulated,” but he wants to see the outfielder play a few innings defensively. Sanders, who's trying to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery in January, has already revealed what he'll do in his first at-bat: “The first time's going to be a bunt. I guarantee you.”

        McKeon said that because the schedule won't allow Parris to pitch in an exhibition game, he wants the right-hander to throw at least five or six innings. McKeon said left-hander Dennys Reyes also might pitch in the scrimmage.

        Right-hander Bobby Munoz, whose strained gluteus muscle has prevented him from pitching in an exhibition game, is expected to throw 25-40 pitches in the scrimmage.

        WILLIAMSON UPDATE: Kremchek re-diagnosed reliever Scott Williamson's leg injury as a strained hamstring and said the right-hander won't be allowed to throw for at least two days. Thursday, Williamson had complained of tightness in his calf.

        “He should be fine. I wouldn't be concerned about this at all,” Kremchek said. “It's just going to take a little bit of time.”

        ALLEN VISITS: Reds chief operating officer John Allen, who's attending this weekend's games, wouldn't provide details about season-ticket sales but reported that they had been “brisk.”

        Allen said the April 3 Opening Day game against Milwaukee was the only sold-out home date on the Reds' schedule.

       

        NO LARKIN NEWS: Allen declined comment on the status of shortstop Barry Larkin's proposal for a contract extension.

        Eric Goldschmidt, Larkin's agent, said last week that Allen might examine the issue during his visit.

       



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