Thursday, April 29, 2004

Cruz finally gets the call

Journeyman outfielder replaces Kearns

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MILWAUKEE - The Reds were up to 25 men on the roster for Wednesday's game with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Jacob Cruz was called up from Triple-A Louisville to take Austin Kearns' spot on the roster. Kearns was placed on the 15-day disabled list after suffering a broken left forearm in Monday's game.

The move was delayed by one day because the Reds were attempting to make a trade to strengthen their bench. The club probably was seeking a Triple-A outfielder with big-league experience.

Cruz was the fallback plan. He wasn't concerned when the call didn't come immediately after Kearns was hurt.

"I've gotten to the point where I don't try to play GM," he said. "I've kept the approach that whatever happens, happens. I try to control what I do on the field."

Cruz, 31, played well at Louisville. He was hitting .315 with three home runs and seven RBI in 17 games. You can make a case that he makes the bench stronger because he's a left-handed hitter with some power. Over the last two seasons, he has hit 13 home runs in 56 Triple-A games.

Cruz last played in the big leagues in the 2002. He hit .273 with two home runs and six RBI in 35 games for Detroit.

Cruz can play right field, left field or first base, but defense is not his strength.

He was limited to 36 games last year by a knee injury. He knows this is his chance to put himself back on the major-league radar screen.

"That's exactly the approach you have to take," he said. "I know this is temporary. But you want to do well and force them to make another move."

DEEE-FENSE: A night after watching his club commit a season-high five errors in Tuesday's 9-8 loss to the Brewers, Reds manager Dave Miley put his best defensive team on the field.

Ryan Freel started at third base and Jason Romano started in right field. Juan Castro wasn't available because of a strained back, or he might have been at third and Freel in right, making the defense stronger still.

Brandon Larson started at third Tuesday and made two errors, including one on a play that would have ended the game. Wily Mo Pena started in right field and misplayed a long fly ball into a three-run triple.

One of the keys to the Reds' good start has been the improved defense. They had made only eight errors before Tuesday.

"We just gave them too many outs (Tuesday)," Miley said.

NORTON SORE: Phil Norton was still very sore Wednesday after his collision with Sean Casey Tuesday. They collided trying to catch a popup. Casey kneed Norton in the thigh.

"I never saw him," Norton said. "It was like getting hit by a truck."

With treatment and today's off day, Norton is hoping to be available for Friday's game in Houston.

JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT: Someone asked Adam Dunn what was the longest home run he ever hit. He didn't hesitate.

"My junior year in high school in Brenham, Texas," he said. "Perfect swing. Perfect pitch."

Dunn didn't know exactly how far it went.

"It was 410 to center," he said. "There was a big metal building 50 feet behind the fence, and it went over that."

FARM REPORT: Felipe Lopez homered in Louisville's 8-4 loss to Indianapolis Tuesday to extend his hitting streak to seven games.

Lopez has hit in 13 of his last 14 games. In that period, he's hitting .340 with three home runs and 12 RBI.

Dustin Moseley, a first-round draft pick in 2000, was placed on the disabled list at Double-A Chattanooga with a strained lower back. Moseley was 1-0 with a 2.35 ERA in four starts.

UP NEXT: The Reds are off today. It's their first off day in 15 days. They open a four-game series in Houston Friday night. Roger Clemens will start for the Astros in the series opener.

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