Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Cruz likely to replace Kearns

No timetable set for injured right fielder's return

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MILWAUKEE - The Reds bench has been a little short - figuratively - since the season started.

Tuesday night, it was literally short. The club played with 24 players against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Reds did not make a roster move after Austin Kearns suffered a broken left forearm in Monday night's game in Pittsburgh.

Kearns returned to Cincinnati and was examined by Reds medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek.

Kremchek confirmed the diagnosis: Kearns has a non-displaced fracture.

Kearns will go on the disabled list. So a move is coming soon.

"What we're doing is looking at several internal and external options," Reds general manager Dan O'Brien said.

The internal option is likely Jacob Cruz. Cruz, 31, an outfielder/first baseman, was one of the final cuts of spring training.

He was hitting .340 with three home runs and seven RBI in 16 games at Louisville entering Tuesday. Cruz played 203 games in the majors.

O'Brien confirmed that Cruz is the most viable internal option. He wouldn't discuss the outside options.

"Some of those actually involve a trade, so I can't talk about them," O'Brien said. "We're going to explore all options."

There are some experienced players at Triple-A, like Bubba Trammell, Raul Gonzalez and Eric Owens. Players like that usually have an out in their minor-league contract if they can get a major-league job.

The Reds should be back to 25 players for today's game.

"In all likelihood, we will be," O'Brien said.

MORE KEARNS: The Reds still haven't put any kind of timetable on Kearns' return.

He was fitted with a short-arm cast and a bone stimulator. He'll be re-evaluated Monday.

"We'll have a much more accurate idea then (of how long he's going to be out)," O'Brien said.

WILY MO IN: Wily Mo Pena started in right field Tuesday night. That doesn't mean he'll be there until Kearns returns. Ryan Freel and Jason Romano will be used, too.

"They are all going to more or less get an opportunity," Reds manager Dave Miley said. "Freel is so versatile."

Pena has the most potential of the three but the least experience.

He has played well when he has started. In his five starts before Tuesday, he had hit .412 with a home run and four RBI.

"I'll try to do my best," he said. "You don't know what's going to happen. It's a new day."

Pena, 22, was glad for the chance.

"But I feel bad for Austin," he said. "You don't want to play because someone is hurt."

In his short career with the Reds, Pena has played well when he has received extended playing time.

Because of injuries last year, he was a regular in September. Over his last 27 starts, he hit .272 with five home runs and 12 RBI.

In spring training this year, he hit .373 with three home runs and 11 RBI over his last 19 games.

"I've worked hard in the cage, trying to keep sharp," he said.

DOWN ON THE FARM: Matt Belisle has moved to the front of the starting pitching class in the minors.

Belisle, 23, a right-hander, allowed two runs on six hits over 7 2/3 innings in Triple-A Louisville's 6-2 win over Indianapolis Monday.

Belisle is 2-0 with 0.54 ERA over his last two starts. Overall, he is 2-2 with a 1.88 ERA.

He has allowed 21 hits and struck out 18 in 28 2/3 innings. Belisle was obtained Aug. 12 from the Atlanta Braves for Kent Mercker.

UP NEXT: The Reds conclude the two-game series with Milwaukee at 7:35 p.m. today. Right-hander Paul Wilson (3-0, 4.13 ERA) faces right-hander Matt Kinney (0-2, 6.97).

Wilson is coming off two poor starts. He went five innings, giving up four runs on nine hits in a 6-4 win over Pittsburgh Friday.

He gave up seven runs on 11 hits over 4 2/3 innings April 18 in an 11-10 win over the Chicago Cubs. That was on a day when hitting was wind-aided.

REDS FACT: Right-hander Paul Wilson, today's starter, is 3-0 for the first time in his six-season major-league career.



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