Saturday, August 16, 2003

Olmedo's call-up is paying dividends

Shortstop has a hand in many Reds rallies

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer


Photos of Friday's game
The Reds are a baseball land of opportunity these days. Show you can play, and you've got a future.

"It's like September call-ups in August," Reds manager Dave Miley said.

So far, the only position player to really make the most of his chance is Ray Olmedo.

Olmedo had a key two-run, two-out double Friday night in the Reds' 9-7 win over the Houston Astros. He also made a spectacular play in the field for the second straight night.

Shortstop remains a question for the Reds with Barry Larkin's contract running out after the season. But Olmedo, a 22-year-old from Venezuela, has played well enough in his three stints with the Reds that he'll probably get a shot at the job for next year.

"That's what I want," he said. "I want to be like Barry Larkin and Dave Concepcion and be the shortstop here for a long time."

Olmedo has surprised everyone by hitting .289 - higher than he has ever hit in the minors.

But beyond the raw numbers, he has had a knack for putting himself in the middle of rallies.

"He seems to make things happen," Miley said.

The Reds are 14-12 when Olmedo starts. He's the only player, with a minimum 10 starts, with whom the Reds have a winning record.

Although he's known for spectacular plays, he struggles at times with the routine ones.

"That's the biggest thing he needs to work on," coach Freddie Benavides said. "We're trying to get him to be as vanilla as possible. He's flashy by nature. We're trying to get him to use his feet and keep it simple."

Friday night, Olmedo proved again that he doesn't wilt under pressure. Trailing by a run, he faced Octavio Dotel - one of baseball's best setup men - with the bases loaded and two outs.

Olmedo went the other way with an off-speed pitch, doubling to left.

"That's what I want to do - help my team win," he said.

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