Monday, May 5, 2003

Reds notebook: Lopez to stay in leadoff spot


But will vacate shortstop when Larkin returns

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SAN FRANCISCO - Felipe Lopez will move from shortstop to second base when Barry Larkin returns. But Lopez is likely to stay in the leadoff spot in the batting order.

PHOTO GALLERY

Photos of Sunday's game
"He's done a pretty good job," Reds manager Bob Boone said. "He's pretty patient. He makes them throw a lot of pitches."

Larkin, out since April 10 with a strained calf, will be activated from the disabled list today or Tuesday.

Since taking over for Larkin 22 games ago, Lopez has hit in the leadoff spot 17 times. He's hit only .264, but his on-base percentage is .369. That's not in Rickey Henderson's class, but it's respectable for a young player hitting leadoff in the big leagues for the first time.

"I've been getting on base every game; that's the main thing," said Lopez, who has reached base in eight straight games. "I've been getting a lot of walks. You've got to get on however you can."

Lopez has also stolen six bases in 10 attempts.

"You have to try to get something going," Lopez said.

MORE LARKIN: Boone did amend his estimate on how much Larkin will play. He said the other day that Larkin might start as few as three of seven games. "It won't be three of seven," Boone said. "I may play Barry five days a week. He's better when he gets rest."

IT'S RIEDLING: John Riedling will start tonight's game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

So are you excited, John?

"Oh, yeah," he said. "It's what I've always wanted. It's an opportunity. I want to make the most of it."

This is most likely a one-shot deal for Riedling - at least in the short term. He is only starting because Chris Reitsma was scratched from his Sunday start with biceps tendinitis, and the Reds don't think one extra day is enough to recover. Riedling, however, knows that a solid start would plant a seed in the minds of the Reds brain trust.

"It may help for future considerations," he said.

Riedling, a 27-year-old right-hander, hasn't started a game since 1998 when he was in Double-A. Riedling has made 88 appearances in relief in the majors.

His 2.95 career ERA speaks to how good his stuff is.

"They know I have the kind of stuff to go through a lineup three or four times," Riedling said.

The Reds didn't make the decision on Riedling until after Sunday's game. The Reds would have had to come up with another plan if Riedling had to pitch in relief.

But starter Ryan Dempster went 5 1/3 innings, Gabe White 1 2/3 and Scott Sullivan went one. That left the bullpen sufficiently loaded for tonight. Riedling went 64 pitches Wednesday in relief. He could exceed that tonight.

"It's not pitches as much as the long innings," he said. "When you throw a lot of pitches in one inning, it can really get to you."

GUILLEN STREAKING: Jose Guillen extended his hitting streak to nine games with an eighth-inning single Sunday. That's the longest by a Red this season.

Guillen also drove in the Reds' only run with a sacrifice fly.

But the most amazing thing Guillen did was the throw he made on Neifi Perez's sacrifice fly in the sixth. Guillen caught the ball about 300 feet from home plate, but his throw nearly got Benito Santiago at the plate. The laser from Guillen made it to catcher Jason LaRue on one hop.

DUNN OUT: Adam Dunn did not play Sunday.

Left-hander Kirk Rueter started for the Giants, but that was not the reason.

"(Rueter) is one left-hander that left-handers hit the same as right-handers," Boone said.

The reason Dunn was out of the lineup is he's struggling. He struck out nine times in his last three games. Dunn is hitting .228 overall with a major league-leading 45 strikeouts. He keeps going in and out of funks.

"He had a real good session on the off days," Boone said.

Dunn, despite the average and all the whiffs, remains productive. He entered Sunday tied for second in the National League in home runs (nine) and tied for 22nd in RBI (19).

FARM REPORT: Russell Branyan returned to the lineup for Triple-A Louisville Saturday. Branyan went 2-for-4 with his first home run for the Bats. He's hitting .378. Branyan, who is rehabbing his shoulder, was used as a designated hitter.




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