By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer
CLEVELAND - Stephen Smitherman's trip the big leagues was almost blocked by a guardrail - literally.
Smitherman was on his way to Jacobs Field from the airport Sunday when his cab driver made contact with a guardrail.
"It all flashed before me," Smitherman said. "That was the most exciting part of the trip."
Smitherman, a 24-year-old outfielder, was called up from Double-A Chattanooga to take Kent Mercker's spot on the roster.
Smitherman is with the Reds now because Austin Kearns will likely miss three or four games with a bruised quadriceps muscle, and Jose Guillen and Sean Casey are facing suspensions.
"That's the plan," said Reds manager Bob Boone. "But plans changed. Anytime you get a chance, you can catch a break and stay."
Smitherman has seen what his former Chattanooga teammate Rainer Olmedo has done with that chance.
"He got called up, and he ain't coming back," Smitherman said.
Smitherman has been on the fast track to the majors, despite being a 23rd-round draft pick in 2000. Impressive at each stop in the minor leagues, Smitherman hit .313 with 19 home runs and 99 RBI in 128 games for Single-A Stockton last year.
He was hitting .318 with 16 home runs and 54 RBI at Chattanooga when the call came.
"I was sitting in the locker room when skip (Phillip Wellman) called me in," he said. "He was taking my name out of the lineup. I didn't know how to take it. Did I do something wrong? He said, 'You're going to Cleveland.'
"I'm really looking forward to it," Smitherman said.
LARSON'S LUCK: Brandon Larson would have gotten the call up to take Mercker's spot, but is nursing a sore shoulder and won't be available for a few days.
Larson has been on fire at the plate,batting .343 with 12 home runs and 43 RBI in 48 games since being sent to the Bats.
GUILLEN, LaRUE OK: Jason LaRue and Guillen both left Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Indians after being hit by pitches.
Both are OK.
LaRue was hit in the back.Guillen was hit on the right hand.
"That was scary," Boone said of Guillen's at-bat. "I heard it crack and it didn't hit the bat."
X-rays were negative, and both are listed day-to-day.
STREAK ENDS: Aaron Boone did not play Sunday, breaking a streak of 241 consecutive games played - the longest by a Reds players since Dave Parker's 267 in a row from 1985 to '87.
ON MERCKER: Mercker's back has improved during the last couple days, but his availability remains day-to-day.
"It's a muscular, sciatica thing," Boone said. "If he played any other position, he could play. But he feels it when he lands on that front leg."
KEARNS UPDATE: After bruising his left quadriceps running into the outfield wall Saturday, Kearns said the muscle was better Sunday but still pretty sore."It's a lot better than (Saturday)," Kearns said. "I could (play), but I don't know if they'd let me."
Kearns watched the replay, which was shown countless times on ESPN, only once.
"I wanted to see what I hit," he said. "Now, I know why my neck, my elbow, my wrist are sore."
GUILLEN SUSPENSION: Guillen said his agent told him that his suspension for bumping umpire Matt Hollowell had been reduced from two days to one.
Boone said he had not heard the news.
UP NEXT: The Reds are off today. They open a three-game series against the Pirates in the Pittsburgh on Tuesday starting at 7:05 p.m.
REDS - BASEBALL
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