By Kevin Kelly
Enquirer staff writer
There were Little League baseball games to watch and plenty of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made.
The past three weeks reacquainted John Vander Wal with his wife and children, but the break also benefited his surgically repaired right knee.
The 38-year-old Reds utility player, who ended a rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A Louisville on June 1 because his physical progress had stalled, returned to Great American Ball Park Friday.
Vander Wal took batting practice, fielded fly balls and was examined by the Reds medical staff. He will do the same today and Sunday.
"I came down here to show them that I was a lot healthier than I was even a month ago," he said. "I'm confident that I'm ready."
Signed to a one-year, $700,000 deal Jan. 12, he slipped on his driveway and needed surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament less than three weeks later.
He was sent first to extended spring training in Florida May 12, and was reinstated from Louisville's DL two weeks later. Vander Wal played in five games for Louisville, batting .250 in 16 at-bats.
The Reds have offered no timetable for his return, but it's clear Vander Wal could help the team as a pinch hitter or as a spot outfielder and first baseman.
"They haven't told me anything," he said. "I'm just very grateful for everything they've done for me, and I still am."
WAITING GAME: The Reds and Austin Kearns are waiting on the right fielder's new batting gloves to arrive from Indonesia.
The gloves, expected to arrive Monday or Tuesday, were designed to help prevent irritation of a sore on Kearns' right thumb. He has been on the disabled list with the injury since June 8 and ended a rehab assignment last week because of the sore.
"We'll see when I get the gloves," Kearns said. "It's something that I've tried to play with. For something small, it really makes it hard to hold the bat."
Two hand specialists examined Kearns earlier this week. One recommended surgery to remove bone spurs from the thumb.
"If these (gloves) work, it might be something to do in the offseason," Kearns said. "It's definitely something that I don't want to do right now."
BACK IN ACTION: Today's start against the Pirates will be Aaron Harang's first with the Reds since June 1.
The right-hander went on the 15-day disabled list June 4 with a sprained ligament in his right thumb. He made one rehabilitation start June 18 at Louisville.
"It will probably feel a little weird once I first get out there (today)," said Harang, who is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts against the Pirates this season. "But I think once I get going, I'll be all right."
THE CAPTAIN: The Reds will make a roster move before today's game to make room for Harang.
Barry Larkin, who missed his sixth consecutive game Friday because of a sore lower abdominal muscle, might be a candidate for the DL.
But the shortstop hit, fielded ground balls and ran before Friday's game and reported no problems.
"I'm just about there," Larkin said. "I feel it a little bit, just a little pull when I get extended.
"Other than that, I'm feeling pretty good. So we'll see if I have any reaction to what I did today. If I don't, hopefully I'll be able to play tomorrow."
REDS FACT: The team is 5-8 all time against the Pirates at Great American Ball Park.
(Through Thursday's game)
|Team Totals ||.253||.341||2462||356||623||128||13||88||335||298||62||31||12||49|
|Van Poppel ||3||2||4.60||15||9||0||62.2||69||32||32||6||12||35|
|Team Totals ||40||32||4.84||72||72||29||639.2||698||371||344||91||221||424|
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