Thursday, August 5, 2004

Griffey is back, but not in center

Starts in right field; Larkin still resting strained muscles

By John Fay
Enquirer staff writer

SAN FRANCISCO - Ken Griffey Jr. was back in the starting lineup Wednesday night - but in an unfamiliar spot - while shortstop Barry Larkin is giving it a rest - literally.

Griffey started in right field, not center, Wednesday night against San Francisco.

Griffey suffered his partially torn hamstring running down a ball in center field in Milwaukee.

The hope is with less ground to cover, there will be less chance of injury.

"I'll be like my dad," Griffey said. "I'll cover my circle as well as anyone in the league."

Griffey has played center for nearly every game of his career. He has made only one start in another outfield position. He started one game in left field in Houston on Aug. 23, 2002.

Griffey had appeared in three games in left and three in right in his career entering Wednesday night.

Wily Mo Pena started in center field.

Reds manager Dave Miley did not say whether the move was permanent. But it's not a one- or two-game thing.

"We're going to basically play it by ear and go from there," Miley said. "It will be for at least the rest of the trip. We're playing in parks with two pretty big outfields."

The Reds go from SBC Park here to Coors Field in Denver.

Griffey considers himself a center fielder. But he was OK with the move.

Meanwhile, Larkin, who has not started since July 24 because of a muscle strain in his side, took it easy before Wednesday's game. He didn't take batting practice or groundballs.

He'll do the same thing - or not do the same thing - before today's game, as well.

"We find the more I do, the worse it gets," Larkin said.

The hope is the rest will help Larkin heal, and that the shortstop will be back in the starting lineup for Friday's series opener against Colorado in Denver.

"That's what we're shooting for," Miley said.

Larkin can swing the bat pain-free and had pinch hit three times coming into Wednesday's game since the injury, with two flyouts and a grand slam.

He was available to pinch hit Wednesday.

The injury bothers Larkin when he throws and goes side to side to field balls.

He tested it before Tuesday's game without much success.

"That's when we decided to minimize things," Larkin said.

Larkin, 40, has not been on the disabled list this year. But nagging injuries have limited him. Going into Wednesday, he had played in 83 of the Reds' 106 games and had started only 69.

In addition to the oblique strain, Larkin missed time with a strained abdominal muscle.

Larkin is hitting .300 with seven home runs and 40 RBI.

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