Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Larkin defers to hotter players

Captain: 'I'm not one of best players'

By John Fay, jfay@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        You couldn't call it a benching, but Reds shortstop Barry Larkin probably could have played any of the four games he missed with a sore trapezius muscle.

        The fact that Larkin didn't play had as much to do with his struggles at the plate as it did with the injury.

        “I'm a realist,” Larkin said. “You have to play your best players. I haven't been one of the best players this year.”

        With Russell Branyan on the team, the Reds can move Aaron Boone to shortstop and play Branyan at third and not lose a great deal offensively.

        So Larkin didn't lobby to play when Reds manager Bob Boone made out the lineup card without Larkin on it.

        The sore shoulder was a factor.

        “I wasn't 100 percent physically,” Larkin said. “If I were, I would have wanted to play. But Russ brings a lot of punch to the lineup. Aaron has been one of our most consistent players lately.”

        Larkin returned to the lineup Monday and doubled his first time up, breaking an 0-for-20 skid.

        Bob Boone said Larkin understood why he wasn't playing.

        “Now that we have Branyan, it's easier for him to accept,” Boone said. “Barry's the ultimate team guy. He's a Red to the core.”

        Boone thinks resting Larkin on a consistent basis will help his performance.

        “You see what he does when he gets a little time to rest,” Boone said. “This is a tough time of the year.”

        Again, Larkin is being realistic. He entered the night hitting .227 — 70 points below his career average.

        “I needed a mental break as much as physical,” he said.

        Despite Larkin's batting average, the Reds are 38-30 with him in the starting lineup.


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Coming up this week

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