Thursday, June 3, 2004

Players want Miley rewarded

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MIAMI - The Reds leaders have the perfect reward for their 5-1 road trip and three-game sweep of the Florida Marlins: A contract extension for manager Dave Miley.

The players are beginning to wonder what Miley has to do to get the franchise to make a long-term commitment to him.

Wednesday's 3-1 victory over the Florida Marlins put the club at 32-21 - the best record in the National League by two games. The Reds have won 15 of 19.

Miley was given a one-year contract with a club option when he was hired in December.

General manager Dan O'Brien has said the Reds will deal with the issue after the season. Miley won't comment on it, but it's clear he would like a long-term commitment as soon as possible.

Ask Barry Larkin if he's surprised it hasn't been done, he just shakes his head.

""It's just a shame," Larkin said. "Go ask the man in the white shirt what he thinks," he said.

Larkin was pointing at Marty Brennaman. No need to ask. Brennaman is a big Miley supporter.

So is Sean Casey.

"I am surprised they haven't done something," Casey said. "Dave Miley is the right guy. He's the difference this year. He deserves to be here a long time."

Casey says Miley is popular in every circle of the clubhouse.

"I think if you surveyed every guy in here, you wouldn't get one that wouldn't want Dave Miley back."

The Reds are the surprise team in baseball. Some preseason publications picked them as the worst club in all of baseball.

As of Wednesday afternoon, they had more wins than anyone in baseball.

The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Anaheim Angels - baseball's three $100 million-plus teams - had a chance to get to 32 wins Wednesday. The Reds payroll is $46.6 million.

WILSON READY: It's almost certain that Paul Wilson's strained groin will cost him only one start.

Wilson pitched a full bullpen session Wednesday.

"Everything was fine," he said.

If he has no adverse reaction today, Wilson will likely start Saturday against the Montreal Expos.

The Reds won't commit to that until they know Wilson's OK.

"Right now, the rotation for Montreal is (Jose) Acevedo Friday, TBA Saturday, TBA Sunday," Miley said.

If Wilson needs an extra day, the Reds could have Todd Van Poppel start Saturday and Wilson Sunday.

Wilson injured the groin in his May 25 start - a 5-2 victory over the Florida Marlins. The mound was slippery because of a steady rain during the game.

Wilson, 7-0 with a 3.34 ERA, is happy to be back so quickly.

"I'm very excited, " he said. "Being hurt is the worst thing in the world. I tried to keep a pretty good head and stay positive.

"But it's hard not being able to help the team. There's some exciting stuff going on right now."

AND FOR VANDY? With John Vander Wal not expected to join the Reds any time soon - if at all - have the Reds turned their attention to getting someone else to fill the role they have in mind for Vander Wal as pinch-hitter/fourth outfielder?

The short answer is: Not now.

"You have to realize in normal circumstances for surgery like John's, he wouldn't be back until July," Reds general manager Dan O'Brien said . "So he wasn't in our plans until July. It's still realistic that he could be back by then. We just can't put a timetable on it."

IT'S ALL GRAVY: Danny Graves is the fastest in history to reach 25 saves.

Graves got to 25 in the Reds' 52nd game. (He got his 26th in their 53rd, pitching a perfect ninth in the Reds' 3-1 win over Florida). The previous fastest to 25 was Seattle's Kazuhiro Sasaki, who got there in the Mariners' 62nd game in 2001.

If Graves can chalk up four more saves in the next 29 games, he'll be the fastest to 30 as well.

Atlanta's John Smoltz (2003) and Los Angeles' Eric Gagne (2002) each reached 30 saves in their club's 82nd game.

Graves is on his best streak of the year. He's converted nine straight and 16 of his last 17.

Graves, by the way, is on a 79-save pace.

STRONG-ARM: Runners are going to stop testing Javier Valentin's arm. Valentin threw out two of baseball's premier base stealers - Luis Castillo and Juan Pierre - Wednesday.

Valentin has thrown out eight of 11 would-be stealers (72.7 percent).

"The pitchers have done a good job holding the runners on," Valentin said. "That gives you a great chance."

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