Monday, April 12, 2004

Kearns finally gets bat, ball to meet


Early-season slump jilted as OF records home run

By John Erardi and Kevin Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Austin Kearns woke up everybody Sunday, including himself, with a 441-foot home run to left center field in the Reds' 4-3 loss to the Pirates.

PHOTO GALLERY
photo gallery
Photos of Sunday's game
"People were saying he's struggling, but . . . he's only had 20 at-bats," teammate Sean Casey said. "Kearns is gonna hit, that's the bottom line. He just needed one good day to get his confidence going."

Adam Dunn, who hit his fourth home run of the season Sunday, has always known where he ranks compared to Kearns.

"He's probably the best hitter on this team," Dunn said. "He wasn't far off. He wasn't going to panic."

Kearns, though, must have felt like a blind squirrel stumbling upon an acorn Sunday.

"I finally ran into one I guess," Kearns said. "I was just trying to hit something hard. I'd been kind of fighting it up there."

The impressive thing about Kearns is he never lets a lack of hitting affect his fielding. He is rock solid in right. He made yet another fine grab off the foul wall Sunday.

He had right shoulder surgery last year, and is beginning to get healthy. He uncorked a strong throw to third base Sunday, although it was slightly off the mark.

"I didn't know if the guy was going to try to tag or not. They know I had surgery and I'm not throwing like I used to," Kearns said. "I like to let it go every now and then just to see where I'm at."

Where is he?

"Not 100 percent, but getting there slowly," Kearns said. "I still haven't let one loose yet with all I've got."

NO WILLIES FOR WILSON: Paul Wilson gets the start today, opening the Phillies' new ballpark, Citizens Bank Park.

"It should be packed and pretty unruly," said Wilson, grinning.

DEFENSIVE HELP: Randy Whisler, the Reds' first base coach, also doubles as the team's resident fielding guru.

"My big thing is footwork," he said. "If they get themselves into a good position to field, it simplifies everything."

Whisler's no-nonsense approach to defense appears to be helping. The Reds, who committed a major league leading 141 errors last season, completed their season-opening homestand on Sunday with two errors in six games.

In addition to daily individual defensive work with Whisler, the Reds plan to take pregame infield practice three to four times per week.

"It gets them ready for the game," said Whisler, who served as the Marlins' minor league infield coordinator from 2001-03. "A lot of guys don't take it anymore. You don't have to take it every day, but you need to take it every once in a while."

LARSON UPDATE: Third baseman Brandon Larson was evaluated by Reds medical director Dr. Timothy Kremchek before Sunday's game, and said he expects to rejoin Triple-A Louisville for a rehab assignment on Wednesday.

The Bats open a six-game homestand against Richmond and Norfolk that day.

On the disabled list with a turf toe injury suffered in spring training, Larson's attempt to begin a rehab assignment last week ended when he was hit by a pitch on the right elbow Thursday.

"Hopefully I'll go down there, hit a couple (homers) and be ready to come back and help out," Larson said after Sunday's game.

LARKIN HELD BACK: As a precaution, the Reds did not start shortstop Barry Larkin on Sunday. He experienced some tightness in his right forearm, but pinch-hit for catcher Corky Miller in the ninth.

MINOR MATTERS: Double-A Chattanooga pitcher Charlie Manning, acquired from the Yankees in the Aaron Boone trade, allowed one run on two hits over 6 2/3 innings against Greenville on Saturday. He struck out nine and walked three.

Jung Keun Bong, acquired from the Braves for Chris Reitsma, allowed one run on six hits and struck out four in five innings for Triple-A Louisville on Sunday.

REDS FACT: First baseman Sean Casey is the only Red to have a hit in all six games. He's hitting a team-leading .455.




REDS / BASEBALL
Reds say foundation in place
Photos of Sunday's game
Relievers leave club stress-free
Kearns finally gets bat, ball to meet
Reds at Phillies series preview
Ephedra ban begins today
NL: Wood stymies Braves
AL: Ortiz bomb stops Jays in 12th
AAA: Louisville 12, Norfolk 3
Notes from Sunday's games

THE 2004 MASTERS
Daugherty: Fans share Lefty's joy
Just call him Major Mickelson - finally
Els is masterful, but it isn't enough
Another major comes and goes without Woods

HOCKEY
For Cyclones, the plot took wrong twists
Kovalev's two goals pace Habs

NBA
Pacers-Celtics rematch set
After five years, Sixers' playoff run is finished

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