Saturday, October 9, 2004

Who's on third? OF Kearns

Right fielder heads to Sarasota for Instructional League

By John Fay
Enquirer staff writer

Austin Kearns sits in the dugout. The Reds plan to try him at third base next year.
(Jeff Swinger/The Enquirer)
The Reds are going to try the Austin Kearns-at-third-base experiment after all.

Kearns will go to the Instructional League in Sarasota, Fla., for a 10-day crash course beginning Tuesday.

He's a willing pupil.

"I think if it works out, it can be beneficial to me and the team," Kearns said.

The Reds are open-minded.

"We have no preconceived conclusions whatsoever," Reds general manager Dan O'Brien said.

But if it works, it will be a tremendous boon for the Reds. By playing Kearns at third, the Reds could play Ken Griffey Jr. in right field to cut down on the wear and tear to his legs. That would open center field for Wily Mo Pena.

Kearns, Griffey, Pena, Adam Dunn and Sean Casey would give the Reds a tremendous lineup from the third through the seventh spots.

The Reds did not bring up the move to Kearns until after the season.

"I was a little surprised by that," Kearns said. "There had been so much talk of it in the media."

The move was Kearns' choice.

"If he was not motivated to do it, we wouldn't have done it," O'Brien said.

Kearns is coming off an injury-plagued season. He hit .230 with nine home runs and 32 RBI in 64 games. But he played much better late in the year. He hit .254 with six home runs and 19 RBI over his last 36 games. That's a 30-homer/95-RBI clip.

Kearns is confident he'll be able to play at third. He played shortstop and third in high school. His arm is the best on the team, and his baseball instincts are very good for a 24-year-old. Kearns played two games at third in rookie ball.

"Hopefully, I can do it," he said. "It's going to take a lot of work. But I'm willing to try it."


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