Saturday, May 8, 2004

Vander Wal getting close

Could complete 'amazing' comeback late this month

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Reds' John Vander Wal continues to astound the medical people.

"He's done phenomenally," Reds medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek said. "He's far exceeded what everyone expected. It's been amazing."

photo gallery
Photos of Friday's game
Vander Wal had knee surgery to repair a torn ACL in January. It was speculated at the time that he could miss the season.

Now, it looks as if he may be back before the end of May.

"I've got a target date," he said. "But I'm not going to say when."

Don't be shocked if Vander Wal is playing in two weeks or so.

Friday, Vander Wal took balls in the outfield. It was not a stationary exercise. Vander Wal was chasing down balls in the gap.

"I felt like I covered it pretty well for the first day," he said. "Everything feels good. It's just a matter of increasing baseball activities."

Vander Wal would be a huge boost to the bench. He is one of the game's premier pinch-hitters. He ranks fifth all-time with 125 hits and third all-time with 17 home runs.

He also can play left field and right field and first base.

Reds manager Dave Miley, whose career was cut short by two knee surgeries, is among those amazed at Vander Wal.

"He's further ahead than I thought he'd be," Miley said. "It's a testimony to his fortitude and will power. He's put a lot of work into it."

MORE GOOD NEWS: Outfielder Austin Kearns is eligible to come off the disabled list Wednesday and catcher Jason LaRue is eligible Friday.

The Reds have said LaRue likely will be ready the first day he is eligible. They have been more cautious with Kearns.

But it looks as if he'll be ready as soon or close to as soon as he's eligible.

LaRue threw Friday for the first time since suffering a fracture to his right index finger.

Kearns took batting practice with the rest of the team Friday.

GRIFFEY V. WLW: Tracy Jones, a former teammate of Ken Griffey Jr. and currently a host on WLW's Extra Innings, offered Griffey a chance to come on the radio Friday night and tell his side of the story.

"I'm not doing anything with WLW," Griffey said.

Griffey is angry with the station because SportsTalk host Andy Furman has been getting a lot of mileage out of comments Griffey made to USA Today about some fans being "clowns."

Griffey and Furman had a loud discussion on the issue Tuesday.

GOOD GRAVY: Closer Danny Graves said he felt better Thursday night than he has felt all season.

He looked as good as he felt. He worked a perfect ninth, striking out two.

It came the night after he threw two innings for the first time all year.

"I had my best movement, velocity, location," he said. "I think those two innings got my mechanics straightened out."

Graves led the majors with 12 saves and his ERA was down to 2.87 going into Friday night.

All in all, he seems like the guy he was before the ill-fated starting experiment. He even broke his 10-decision losing streak with his victory Wednesday night.

"Eight of those were when I was starting," he said. "They shouldn't count. It should say "Did Not Play" on the back of my baseball card under 2003."

ACEVDO UPDATE: Right-hander Jose Acevedo did not throw a bullpen session Friday. With Monday's off day, they decided to have him wait an extra day.

He left his Wednesday start with a blister on his middle finger.

"I played catch today," Acevedo said Friday. "It felt OK."

FARM REPORT: Matt Belisle, the 23-year-old right-hander obtained in the Kent Mercker deal with Atlanta last year, pitched seven innings of two-run ball Thursday in Triple-A Louisville's 8-3 win over Durham. He allowed five hits, walked none and struck out five.

Catcher Dane Sardinha continues to swing a hot bat. He went 2-for-4 with his fourth home run. He's hitting .424 with four home runs in his last eight games.

UP NEXT: The Reds play the Giants in the second game of the three-game series today. Right-hander Paul Wilson (3-0, 4.79 ERA) faces right-hander Dustin Hermanson (1-1, 4.70).

Hermanson is making his first start since coming off the disabled list with a lower back strain.

REDS FACT: Ken Griffey Jr. is the 60th major leaguer to have more than 1,400 RBI. His five RBI Thursday gave him 1,403.

Reds statistics

(Through Thursday's game)

Casey .389.427113204412132388101
Dunn .305.5258224254010203733201
Larkin .300.35210017306106813200
Cruz .294.40017351002310000
Larson .265.3423449201546004
Griffey .245.327981424704191121100
Castro .244.306457112116411001
Freel .237.293769183215317524
Jimenez .217.3541061823503122224222
LaRue .211.2925771240110511003
Pena .200.27340381114319000
Valentin .171.2253546202735003
Kearns .137.290517721251015101
Romano .077.2001311000027000
Miller .000.3161300000145000
Team Totals .246.3479321392295372912713523414420
Riedling 100.60140015.07110313
Graves 122.871601215.216955211
Van Poppel 114.5060012.01366048
Acevedo 224.5466035.23419188729
Lidle 214.7566036.03720194819
Wilson 304.7966035.246211951019
Harang 214.9666032.242181851426
Jones 215.74150015.21510101714
Norton 006.30130010.01177136
Reith 018.18110011.01510101912
Wagner 119.3112009.2221210296
Haynes 039.6054015.0261716378
Team Totals 15135.13282812244.02841501393583171

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ONLINE EXTRA: Photos of Friday's game
Vander Wal getting close
Mondesi heads home to Dominican
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