Friday, July 9, 2004

Club short-handed - again

Freel's bruise not serious enough for a roster move

By John Fay
Enquirer staff writer

MILWAUKEE - It's looks like the Reds will play their four-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers with 24 players.

The MRI exam on Ryan Freel's left knee Thursday showed no fracture or ligament damage, but Freel has a deep bruise under the surface of his knee cap.

He remained in Cincinnati and will be re-examined by medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek Saturday morning. There's a chance he could join the Reds for the last two games of the Milwaukee series.

"The doctor doesn't think it's an injury that will put him on the disabled list," general manager Dan O'Brien said.

Freel injured his knee in the sixth inning of Wednesday night's 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. He slid into the wall along the right-field foul line trying to make a catch. The knee hit the concrete instead of the padding. Freel was limping when he came off the field.

So the likelihood of him playing in this series would seem remote. The series here is followed by the three-day All-Star break.

Freel, the Reds' everyday utility player, will be missed however long he's out. Freel is on a career-high, nine-game hitting streak.

He is hitting .474 during the streak and .368 in his last 26 games.

"He's been hot," Reds manager Dave Miley said.

Freel has hit in the leadoff spot in his last 44 starts. He's hitting .293 in those starts.

He has started 68 games this season - 29 at third base, 12 in right field, 10 in left field, nine at second base and eight in center field.

24 ONCE MORE: The Reds have played with 24 in Milwaukee before.

After Austin Kearns suffered a broken forearm in Pittsburgh April 26, the Reds did not call up another player for the following two-game series against the Brewers.

The Reds lost both games - 9-8 after Brandon Larson made an error on what would have been the final out of the game, and 10-9 after they led 9-0.

NO VANDY: O'Brien was in Louisville the last two days and watched John Vander Wal play.

But, with no roster move Thursday, it looks like Vander Wal won't be called up until at least after the All-Star break.

The Reds aren't convinced Vander Wal is swinging the bat well enough to contribute now. Vander Wal is hitting .130 in his second rehab stint at Louisville.

Vander Wal shut down his first rehab attempt and returned home to Michigan for a month.

Are the Reds fearful he'll do that again?

"I haven't talked to him specifically about it," O'Brien said. "But he's committed to playing for the Cincinnati Reds this year."

Vander Wal did scratch from the Louisville lineup Thursday.

TRAVELING IN STYLE: The Reds' traveling party going to the All-Star Game in Houston - Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Larkin, Danny Graves and media relations director Rob Butcher - will go in style.

They'll fly from Milwaukee to Houston in the jet Griffey charters. Adam Dunn, who lives outside Houston, will hitch a ride.

Someone asked what the forecast for Houston was.

"It'll be hot," Dunn said.

"More like close to hell," Griffey said.

The Reds' other All-Star, Sean Casey, isn't with the club in Milwaukee because he's on the DL. He can't play in the All-Star Game, but he will be there for the festivities.

FARM REPORT: Brandon Claussen pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings in Triple-A Louisville's 5-0 victory over Ottawa Wednesday.

Claussen (8-5) is 5-1 with a 2.39 ERA over his last six starts.

Richie Gardner, who went 8-3 with 2.50 ERA at Single-A Potomac, gave up two runs on six hits in six innings and earned the win in a 6-2 victory in his first start for Double-A Chattanooga Thursday.

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