Saturday, May 3, 2003

Demotion raises Larson's offense

Hitting .344 in first 8 games at Triple-A

By Kevin Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDIANAPOLIS - In the cramped visitor's clubhouse, there are no nameplates or cushy chairs.


Photos of Friday's game
Laser-printed on strips of white office paper are the names of players seated in unforgiving brown, plastic chairs beside their lockers.

Brandon Larson has been here before, playing for Triple-A Louisville in the International League, and doesn't blame anybody but himself for being back.

"Maybe it's a good thing," he said this week. "It kind of brings you back to reality and humbles you a little bit."

Presented an opportunity to be the Reds' everyday third baseman this season, Larson was optioned to Triple-A after 16 games and a mere 48 at-bats.

"I was pretty confident going into the season," said Larson, who hit .259 with two homers and nine RBI in spring training. "I guess I was overly confident to where I couldn't go out there and do the game.

"Coming down here, we're relaxed. I'm just trying to find a happy medium."

Larson has been pegged as the third baseman of the future since the Reds selected him in the first round of the 1997 draft.

"We certainly think he's the player he showed (he was) last year," general manager Jim Bowden said last week.

"We think he has tremendous potential."

Larson led all Reds minor-leaguers in hitting (.340) and home runs (25) in 80 games with Louisville last season and batted .275 with four homers and 13 RBI in 23 games with the Reds in 2002.

"Last year I don't remember any given time when I was slumping," Larson said. "All of the sudden I start out this year in a slump.

At the time the Reds optioned him after their April 19 game against the Expos in Puerto Rico, Larson was batting .083 with no homers and 16 strikeouts.

Of additional concern were the four errors he committed at third base.

Louisville manager Dave Miley said he noticed Larson was leaving his feet too often when fielding ground balls.

"He had an opportunity up there, and unfortunately it didn't work out," Miley said. "He just needs to get back on track offensively and defensively.

"He's got to stay consistent. I think that's a big key."

That appears to be happening to some degree.

Through his first eight games at Louisville, Larson had a .344 batting average with three doubles, three homers and seven RBI.

But now that Aaron Boone has moved back to third base and the Reds are playing better defensively, Larson's stint in the minors could turn into a lengthy one.

"I've just got to come back down here, get it right and get back up there as soon as I can," he said. "I'm not worried about (when that will happen), but it's definitely where I want to be.

"At the same time, I need to get some things right and leave it up to them."



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