Sunday, September 26, 2004

Shortstop Larkin: 'I know I can play'

It's the where that's unknown for longtime Red

By John Fay
Enquirer staff writer

PITTSBURGH - As the Reds' season dwindles to a few days, Barry Larkin sounds resigned to the fact that his playing days with the Reds are over.

That's not to say he's through playing.

"We're going to go into the offseason and see what happens," Larkin said. "Whatever happens with the Reds happens. I want to play here. But I have no idea what they're thinking. I can't force them (to bring me back)."

Larkin, who has played 19 seasons, all with the Reds, said he is "leaning toward" playing in 2005. The Reds say they are waiting for a final decision from Larkin.

"Barry is a free agent at the end of the year," Reds chief operating officer John Allen said. "I don't know if Barry's made a decision whether to play or not. We'll deal with it at an opportune time when Barry has made his plans."

Allen said whether Larkin is offered a contract is a baseball decision. In other words, it's general manager Dan O'Brien's call.

O'Brien repeated Saturday what he has said all along: The Reds will address free agents, including Larkin, after the season.

Larkin, 40, thinks he still can make a contribution on the field.

"I know I can play," he said. "I was having a good year. I made the All-Star team. I was hitting .300 with four errors at shortstop. Then they stopped playing me. It's hard when you don't have an opportunity. But I think they know I can play."

Larkin hasn't started a game in a week and has started only three in September. The Reds made it clear Sept. 3 that they were going to play Anderson Machado and Felipe Lopez the rest of the year to find Larkin's long-term replacement.

Larkin has struggled since being benched. He was hitless in his last 15 at-bats going into Saturday.

"I think people know I can still play," he said. "After the season, we'll look at any and all opportunities."

Larkin would like to work in the Reds' front office after he retires.

"We'll wait and see what Barry decides as far as playing," Allen said. "It would be premature to talk about that until then."

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