By Kevin Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer
CLEARWATER, Fla. - With eight spring games remaining before a pair of exhibition games at the Great American Ball Park, manager Bob Boone believes there is ample time to evaluate players.
But, he said Tuesday, there remains a possibility the Reds could leave Florida with more players than available roster spots.
Opening day rosters are limited to 25 players. The Reds still have 35.
"I would hope (to get it to 25) because I'm not crazy about presenting that news or even putting people through that kind of pressure," Boone said. "I can't say it wouldn't happen. If it does, I don't like it.
"With the last two exhibition games (being in Cincinnati), it could be going down to that point. It wouldn't surprise me, but I wouldn't be fond of that."
Some of the more nerve-racking decisions on the horizon?
Wily Mo Pena is out of options, Juan Castro and Kelly Stinnett have guaranteed contracts, up to three players are vying for the fourth outfield spot and Boone must settle on whether to go with an 11- or 12-man pitching staff.
That four spots are open on the 40-man roster right now helps matters some.
"I keep counting the same number, and it's more than 25," Boone said. "Something has to give. But you just kind of kick around every idea every day.
"At some point you've got to decide who you're going to bet on."
NO REGULAR OFF DAY: Barry Larkin spent part of Monday in front of the television with his children, and he will tune in again today.
"I had my TV on CNN and MSNBC last night trying to educate my kids on what's going on," Larkin said.
The Reds are fully aware that the next time they play a game, Thursday against the Pirates, America could be at war with Iraq.
Today is the club's only off day during spring training.
"I've been hooked on MSNBC and CNN and Fox News for six weeks now," second baseman Aaron Boone said.
"That's all I watch anyway. I'm sure I'll be following closely."
SWINGING AWAY: Right fielder Austin Kearns, who underwent arthroscopic surgery March 10 to remove three bone chips in his left elbow, began hitting soft-toss Tuesday.
He is expected to hit against live pitching Thursday.
"They're real encouraged by him," Bob Boone said. "He feels real good. He's been champing at the bit. You just don't want any swelling. But he has no pain at all."
ODDS AND ENDS: The Reds placed infielder/outfielder Russell Branyan on the 15-day disabled list. ... Bothered by a strained rib cage muscle, third baseman Brandon Larson is expected to play in the field Thursday. ... Pena remains day-to-day with a groin strain.
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