Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Larkin's future remains unsettled

By John Fay
Enquirer staff writer

Barry Larkin was in the Reds' starting lineup Tuesday night when they opened their three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals.

That rates as news these days.

Barry Larkin stays on his feet as Tony Womack tries to take him out.
(Enquirer photo/JEFF SWINGER)
It was only the fourth start in the last 26 games for Larkin, who is still dealing with the strained oblique muscle he suffered July 24.

"It's been this way for three years," Larkin said. "It's evolved as a way of life."

Nagging injuries take more of a toll when you're 40 years old, as Larkin is.

The oblique injury basically has cost Larkin his starting job. There are two parts to that: 1. the Reds need to look at Felipe Lopez to see if he's their future shortstop, and 2. the injury has limited Larkin's range in the field to the point that Lopez is the better choice at the position despite his tendency to make errors.

Larkin certainly has hit well enough to start. Going into Tuesday's game, he had 12 hits in his last 25 at-bats and was batting .307 overall.

The question is, will the injury and lack of playing time affect Larkin's decision on whether to retire?

"I wasn't going to be playing 162 games anyway," he said.

That seems to indicate Larkin wants to play next year. But he wouldn't go that far.

"I'm keeping my options open," he said. "I don't know what my offers are. Notice that was plural."

Larkin would like to continue with the Reds even if he retires as a player.

General manager Dan O'Brien has instituted a policy under which the Reds do not negotiate with free agents during the season; that covers Larkin. And the Reds don't have a job in mind for Larkin should he decide not to play.

"I don't know how it will play out," Reds chief operating officer John Allen said. "We'll discuss it after the season."

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