Monday, April 26, 2004

Swing proves Casey's good health

Memories of surgery fade thanks to .435 average

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

PITTSBURGH - Another day, another two hits for Sean Casey. How well is Casey swinging the bat?

He came into Sunday hitting .431 and raised his average to .435 by going 2-for-4 in the Reds' 6-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"That's when you know you're going good," he said.

It was Casey's 10th multi-hit game of the year. Casey entered Sunday first in the National League in hits (28) and multi-hit games (9), second in doubles (8), third in hitting (.431), and fourth in on-base percentage (.479).

"I feel good," he said. "I've had good starts and I've had bad starts. It's nice to start well."

Casey has been particularly good in the clutch. He's hitting .611 (11-for-18) with runners in scoring position.

Casey hit .291 with 14 home runs and 80 RBI last year. A lot of people called it a down year, but Casey disagrees.

"I had a good year last year," he said. "I'm proud of what I did, coming off the shoulder surgery."

Casey struggled with shoulder problems in 2002 before having surgery in September.

And the more he plays, the more he's swinging like the old Casey. One telltale sign: He's driving the ball the other way.

"That's me," he said. "Four or five of my doubles have been to left. One of my home runs was to left. With the shoulder, I got in the habit of trying to pull the ball too much."

CHANGE? Javier Valentin started Sunday at catcher. He's started the last two times Jason LaRue has been given the day off.

That seems to indicate a change on the depth chart.

Corky Miller had subbed for LaRue the first three times he sat out.

Miller's roster spot could be in jeopardy. He has options and the Reds need to move someone when third baseman Brandon Larson is brought up from Louisville.

MORE LARSON: Larson homered for Louisville in the Bats' 9-5 loss to Toledo Sunday, and is now hitting .349 with four homers and nine RBI in 12 games. He has struck out 17 times in 43 at-bats.

Larson, rehabbing a turf toe injury at Louisville, could be called up at any time.

• Louisville starter Bubba Nelson (0-2) took the loss, allowing five runs on nine hits in five innings. Jermaine Clark went 3-for-5 with two RBI for the Bats.

• Ricardo Aramboles, a top right-handed prospect who is coming off shoulder surgery, had a strong outing in Potomac's 3-2 win Thursday over Winston-Salem.

Aramboles, 22, went 5 2/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits. He struck out four and walked one.

• Jung Keun Bong, the left-hander obtained in the Chris Reitsma trade, was roughed up for the second straight outing Saturday at Louisville. He gave up six runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings in a 6-3 loss to Toledo.

FREEL GOOD: Ryan Freel was out of the lineup Sunday after being hit in the head by a pitch in the ninth inning of Saturday's game.

He was available to play.

"I'm fine," he said. "I'm just a little sore where it hit me. I've been icing it and taking Tylenol. That's really it."

Because of Freel's situation, manager Dave Miley did not give shortstop Barry Larkin a day off as planned.

Miley was going to start Juan Castro at short, but Castro started at third base instead.

ROTATION TURNS: Jimmy Haynes said after his one-inning, seven-hit, four-run outing that he's looking forward to his next start.

The wait may be a long one. Haynes' next turn falls on Thursday. The Reds are off that day.

With everyone else in the rotation pitching well, it makes sense to skip Haynes, and he might not start again until May 4.

HARANG HURRAH: Right-hander Aaron Harang (1-0, 3.71 ERA), who starts tonight against the Pirates, is coming off his best start of the year.

He went six innings Wednesday, allowing two runs on four hits against the Atlanta Braves. Atlanta rallied to win 9-5.

REDS FACT: Barry Larkin appeared in his 2,013th game at shortstop Sunday and is one game short of tying Pee Wee Reese for 13th on the all-time list.



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