Sunday, March 7, 2004

Reds seem all-natural

Pass the potatoes and green tea, please

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SARASOTA, Fla. - On Friday morning, Sean Casey strolled through the Reds' clubhouse and grabbed a bottle of water from a refrigerator. He opened the bottle, pulled an eye-dropper from his pocket and squeezed a few drops of dark, green liquid into the water. Hmmm.

"The media's watching," Reds bench coach Jerry Narron said.

"GREEN TEA!" Casey replied. "GREEN TEA!"

One day, Sean Casey will test positive for human growth hormone or androstenedione. The next day, the world will end. If you see any vicious rumors tying Casey to anything stronger than Triple Protection AquaFresh, your next move should be to page your life insurance guy and move to a cave in Montana.

No steroids here, feds. The Reds are as natural as mom's meatloaf.

Reds catcher Corky Miller takes some rips in the cage.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
This isn't a fact. Given Major League Baseball's current testing program, a guy could slam dianabol all winter and be clean by February. It's just an observation. If you're in enough locker rooms for enough years, and you know enough signs, it's not hard to see who's normally large and who looks like the Michelin Tire Man.

When your abs look like a keyboard and you're approaching 40, you might be on steroids. When your arms are a hunk of stone and your shoulders span three time zones and your head expands from size 7 to Whoa Look At That Dome and your mood alters from jovial to Kill Someone, well, you don't get that way by speed-eating Power Bars.

The Reds have no one like this.

The Reds have big players. But they're not buff, cut, ripped or jacked from the pages of Muscle magazine. The only evidence of steroids in Redsville is in the parking lot. You should see Adam Dunn's truck - it eats Yugos for breakfast.

Austin Kearns? Six-feet-three, 220 pounds of home cookin'.

The Reds aren't with the program, so to speak. They have no personal trainers. There isn't an individual workout guru in sight, though if the steamer trunk in front of one of Ken Griffey Jr.'s two lockers gets any larger, he's gonna need a Sumo man to move that sucker.

The Reds could be the poster men for second helpings of mashed potatoes. Without naming names, a few big-time players on this team could mix in a Slim-Fast shake and a sensible dinner of chicken (no skin) and steamed broccoli.

BALCO, pharmacy for the stars, might as well be Balki to these guys. (Balki was the Bronson Pinchot character in the TV show Perfect Strangers, for those who care.)

Everyone's a suspect now. We're beginning to look at baseball players with the same sideways eye we've reserved for Olympians. The sport is preparing for its own set of asterisks. Which stinks for players like Casey.

"Who'd have thought andro was that big a deal a few years ago?" Casey said. "Now I'm putting green tea in a water bottle and I'm thinking, 'Whoa.'

"For me, it's looking in the mirror and knowing I'm taking what God's giving me and doing my best. When my career's over, I can look back and feel like I went about it the right way."

Griffey could be justifiably angry. He has seen his peers, especially Barry Bonds, pass him on the road to immortality faster than you can say HGH. To see a photo of Mark McGwire from the 1990 World Series - tall and thin - is to understand why places like BALCO did booming business.

"I can't control what others do" is all Griffey says about that.

Barry Larkin doesn't mind saying he's resentful. You build a resume the honest way, then all of a sudden the game changes. "Testing isn't broad enough. People are going to do what they do to get an edge, (but) steroids don't belong in baseball."

They're not big among the Reds. If they are, they're not working. Except on Danny Graves' motorcycle, something called a Big Dog. It has 107 cubic inches of engine and a low-slung seat. Also, flames painted on the fender. That's some heavy testosterone there.



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