Saturday, January 06, 2001

Reds back Henson's decision

By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Reds farm director Tim Naehring applauded Drew Henson's decision Friday to continue playing minor-league baseball for the Reds and football for the University of Michigan.

        This should help the quarterback/third baseman make his ultimate choice, Naehring said, while giving the Reds more time to evaluate Henson's baseball skills — or ship him back to the New York Yankees, as has been specu lated by media in Cincinnati and New York. Reds general manager Jim Bowden has refused to comment.

        “We compliment him for what he does on the football field,” Naehring said after Henson announced he would stay at Michigan for his senior season. “Obviously, we would love for him to be a baseball player. But I don't think he'll be a completely happy baseball player until he explores all the avenues. When the smoke clears, you never want to say, "What if?'”

        Henson, whom the Reds invited to spring training, is likely to join workouts during Michigan's spring break, Feb.23 to March 4. He is projected to play at Double-A Chattanooga, though classes and football will abbreviate his season.

        NFL scouts already have predicted that Henson will be the first quarterback taken in the 2002 NFL draft. For Henson to play baseball, it's believed the Reds would have to guarantee him an eight-figure payment as part of a multiyear deal. That has prompted speculation of a trade with the Yankees.

        The Reds acquired Henson and three other prospects from the Yankees in the Denny Neagle trade July 12. Henson hit only .172 with one homer and nine RBI in 16 games for Chattanooga before leaving for football practice at Michigan. Before that, he batted .287 with seven homers and 39 RBI in 59 games for the Yankees' Double-A Norwich team.

        “For a big man (6-foot-5, 222 pounds) who normally would be (playing) first base, he has great hands,” Naehring said.


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