Sunday, January 27, 2002
Lefebvre: RF candidates pack wallop
New hitting coach impressed with Encarnacion, Mateo
By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The wind was blowing in the first day Ruben Mateo and Juan Encarnacion showed up in Scottsdale, Ariz., to work with new Reds hitting coach Jim Lefebvre. It didn't matter. They just hit the ball through the gusts.
They put on a tremendous show, Lefebvre said. They're both very strong with great potential.
Mateo and Encarnacion are two of the candidates for the right-field job. Austin Kearns will get a look, as well. Wily Mo Pena could enter the race by putting up big numbers in Sarasota.
Encarnacion, acquired from Detroit in the Dmitri Young trade, is the top candidate, based on experience (three full seasons in the bigs) and salary ($1.55 million).
Encarnacion, 25, once was stamped can't miss. Two seasons ago, he appeared well on his way. He hit .289 with 14 home runs, 72 RBI and 16 steals. But last year he slipped to .242, 12 homers, 53 RBI and nine steals.
Lefebvre says a minor adjustment can have a major impact for Encarnacion.
He's tall and lean (6feet2, 160 pounds), Lefebvre said, and he holds his hands very high, so he has a tendency to get out on his front foot. That makes him susceptible to breaking balls.
I thought I was going to have to do a lot with him. But it will be a small adjustment. I was really impressed with him.
Reds manager Bob Boone was practically gushing when talking about Sean Casey and Barry Larkin at the LaSalle High Sports Stag Wednesday.
Each muscled up in the offseason by working with a personal trainer.
You won't recognize Casey, Boone said. He's so much more defined. Lark is much thicker. It's really the first time he's worked out like this.
SPEAKING OF PUMPED:
Ken Griffey Jr.'s offseason program is going well, reports his agent, Brian Goldberg. Griffey, who missed two months with a partially torn hamstring, is working with weights for the first time this offseason.
Everything's been good, Goldberg said. He's looking forward to an injury-free season.
The law of averages says that's a strong possibility. Griffey averaged 159 games his last three years in Seattle. He has averaged 128 his two years here.
The Reds have enough pitchers going into spring training. But they don't have enough innings for each of them.
We legitimately have 12 candidates for starters, Boone said, and I honestly couldn't tell who the top three are.
We're trying really hard to get enough innings. We added a bunch of "B' games. We'll have an intrasquad game every day for the first several days.
Elmer Dessens, Lance Davis, Jose Acevedo, Chris Reitsma, Danny Graves, Scott Williamson, Jim Brower, Jose Silva, Seth Etherton, Jimmy Haynes, Joey Hamilton and Brian Bohanon will get looks for the rotation.
WHO'S ON FIRST:
Boone said outfielder Robin Jennings is the leading candidate to back up Casey at first base.
Casey played 136 games last year at first, Dmitri Young 38. Jennings played eight games there.
Boone said Brady Clark and Jennings probably will be the extra outfielders. But Kearns and Mateo could affect that with outstanding springs.
The Reds and pitcher James Baldwin probably won't reach a deal.
We made an offer, said assistant general manager Doc Rodgers. They made a couple of counter-offers. But we've hit a dead end.
The Reds still could add a player or two, if the asking price drops.
There are a lot of players out there without jobs who could help us, Rodgers said.
John Allen said the Reds got a nice bump in season-ticket sales after they announced ticket prices for Great American Ball Park.
It's been very positive for 2002 and 2003, Allen said. People who were waivering saw the prices were lower than they expected.
The bump for this season has come from people who want to get on the seniority list for 2003. Seniority will help determine season-ticket holders' seats at Great American.
Acevedo had surgery in December to repair a hernia.
It was bothering him last year, said team medical director Tim Kremchek. We didn't want it to affect him this year, so we fixed it.
Acevedo may be held out of some early drills when the Reds report to Sarasota on Feb.16, but Kremchek expects him to be 100 percent when spring training games begin Feb.27.
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