Wednesday, April 05, 2000

REDS NOTEBOOK


McKeon makes right moves for left reasons

BY CHRIS HAFT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Always comfortable with using his entire roster, Reds manager Jack McKeon adjusted his lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

        Lefty-vs.-righty percentages partly dictated McKeon's moves. With left-hander Valerio De Los Santos starting for Milwaukee, Benito Santiago, a right-handed batter, replaced lefty Eddie Taubensee at catcher.

        Alex Ochoa, another right-handed hitter, started in left field as Michael Tucker returned to the bench, even though Tucker homered in Monday's rain-shortened game.

        When somebody jokingly mentioned that Tucker wouldn't have a chance to extend his home-run streak, McKeon said, “He can extend it tomorrow.”

        With right-hander Jimmy Haynes starting tonight for Milwaukee, Tucker is likely to return to the lineup.

        McKeon also wanted to keep players sharp by using them. He did this last year by successfully rotating Tucker, Dmitri Young and Jeffrey Hammonds in right field.

        “We got these guys in shape during spring training. We might as well play them,” McKeon said. “You can't let them sit too long.”

Morris improves
       

        First baseman Hal Morris, hampered recently by a strained groin muscle, said he felt better after taking batting practice Tuesday.

        But Morris said he won't be able to determine the full extent of his health until he tries running.

        That simple activity has been a problem with the wet grounds recently at Cinergy Field.

        “I'm trying to err on the side of caution,” Morris said.

        Once Morris is fit, he probably will join the first-base mix in Sean Casey's absence, playing against right-handed pitchers with switch-hitting Young starting against lefties. Young will play left field, unless he's resting, when Morris starts.

Frozen in memory
       

        Tuesday's frigid conditions prompted McKeon, who has spent more than a half-century in baseball, to recall his coldest night on the field. He said it occurred sometime between 1956-58, when he managed Missoula (Mont.) in the Pioneer League. He and his team encountered 27-degree temperatures for a game at Idaho Falls, Idaho.

        McKeon recalled he and his players were saved by the two heat blowers they carried with them on the road. “We had them and the home club didn't,” he said.

        Right fielder Dante Bichette, a veteran of seven seasons with the Colorado Rockies, didn't nominate one of those snowy Denver nights as his coldest. Instead, he cited a 15-degree evening in Milwaukee early in his career.

        “It was that kind of cold where it just hurts,” Bichette said. “Everybody was wearing (plastic) baggies under their shoes.”

Ticket price increases
       

        Prices for Cinergy Field's best blue tickets went from $17 last year to $21 this year. Other blue tickets went from $15 last year to $18 this year.

        Green seats were $13, $12 and $9 in 1999, and went to $16, $14 and $11.

        Yellow seats increased from $12 in 1999 to $13 this season.

        Red seats were $10 (box), $7 and $4 (top 6) last season and increased to $12 (box), $8 and $5 (Top 6) this season.

        In 1998, all blue seats were $14, so the best blue seats have increased 50 percent since. Red box seats, which were $9 in 1998, are now $12 (33 percent increase).

Gift for mom
       

        It traveled briefly through the Reds' clubhouse, carried by a club official, but it was impressive nonetheless: the 1999 Gold Glove that second baseman Pokey Reese will receive officially before Saturday's game against Chicago.

        “I've never seen one,” Reese said, adding that he had looked at a picture of one in a book.

        Reese said he planned to give his trophy to his mother, Clara, who lives in Charlotte, N.C.

        The Reds' other 1999 award winners will receive their trophies along with Reese:

        McKeon (National League Manager of the Year), Casey (Hutch Award), right-hander Scott Williamson (NL Rookie of the Year), shortstop Barry Larkin (Silver Slugger) and center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. (Silver Slugger, Gold Glove).

Having a ball
       

        Denny Neagle, who entered Tuesday's game with 998 career strikeouts, reached 1,000 by whiffing Geoff Jenkins to end the first inning and opposing pitcher Valerio De Los Santos to conclude the second inning.

Up next
       

        Milwaukee's Jimmy Haynes will make his National League debut against the Reds and right-hander Steve Parris.

        The Brewers acquired Haynes from Oakland Dec.13 along with right-hander Jamey Wright and catcher Henry Blanco from Colorado as part of a nine-player, four-team trade.

        The right-hander finished 7-12 with a 6.34 ERA last year and was 0-2, 8.61 in six starts during the exhibition season.

       



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