Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Larkin's told to sit on bench

O'Brien claims Reds captain supportive of diminished role

By John Fay
Enquirer staff writer

HOUSTON - Anderson Machado, fresh up from Triple-A Louisville, was in the starting lineup for the Reds on Tuesday night.

With Felipe Lopez getting the bulk of the time at shortstop before Machado arrived, where does that leave Barry Larkin? As a pinch-hitter for the rest of the year.

barry "The majority of the playing time is going to go to Machado and Lopez," Reds general manager Dan O'Brien said. "We met with Barry today and told him that. He was supportive."

The Reds are looking for a permanent replacement for Larkin, 40, who has been a fixture at shortstop for the Reds since 1986.

That does not mean that Larkin will not return to the Reds next year. He is a free agent after this season.

"This situation - with Machado and Lopez - doesn't affect next year with Barry," O'Brien said.

Larkin originally planned to make this season his last. But in July he asked the club to cancel a planned Barry Larkin Day.

Larkin has not decided whether he'll play next season. O'Brien says the club will deal with free agents, including Larkin, after the season.

Larkin has not started a game since Friday in Milwaukee. He has not started on back-to-back days since Aug. 10-11. In the 24 games since then, Larkin has started only five.

Part of that is because of the way Lopez is playing. Part of that is because Larkin has been dealing with a strained oblique muscle. The injury doesn't bother him at the plate - he has 15 hits in his last 43 at-bats (.349) - but it limits his range in the field.

The Reds have an opening at shortstop and third base for next year. Lopez started at third Tuesday.

To think Machado, 23, would be ready to play regularly next year could be wishful thinking. He hit .228 with six home runs and 38 RBI in 109 Triple-A games. He looked overmatched against Roy Oswalt on Tuesday. He struck out on three pitches in his first two at-bats, and on five pitches his third time up.

Lopez, 24, is a more realistic possibility. He went into Tuesday hitting .291 with five home runs and 17 RBI in his last 36 games.

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