The team's been talking about it since September. The fans have been talking about it even longer. But finally it's official: Ken Griffey Jr. will no longer be playing center field for the Reds.
If you haven't been paying attention, he hasn't been playing center field for the Reds for a while now. He broke his hand a couple months ago and he still complains of lingering pain. The plan is for him to move to right field when he does take the field again.
Manager Jerry Narron made a comment about the situation that I found odd, “We would have loved for him to be available Opening Day to play center field, it just didnâ€™t work out.” It seems to imply that it somehow takes less to get ready to play in right field than in center. Like, if only he could have gotten more ST ABs, he'd be able to play in center, but as it is, he's only ready for right.
With a scant 12 days left until Opening Day and still not so much as an appearance in an exhibition game, it's beginning to look like Griffey won't be ready for any play come the beginning of the season. This isn't likely to be a problem for the Reds, who can't seem to turn around without tripping over another outfielder.
Several young hopefuls have shown their mettle during spring training. Josh Hamilton is an organization favorite and rule-5 guy who's done plenty to impress. His problems with shin splints don't surprise me; he's never played above A-ball. It's a lot more intense up here.
Bubba Crosby is a crowd favorite and scrappy little guy. He's demonstrated his skill during the spring, but may be hampered by his left-handedness. It's not his fault that Adam Dunn, Griffey, and Hamilton are all already lefties, and hopefully the organization will recognize that it's more important to play the best players than to count the number of left-handed bats on the bench.
Chris Denorfia has been up and down the last couple seasons and, lucky for him, hits right-handed. He started the spring cool but has heated up lately. Norris Hopper is another right-handed possibility to take on the fourth outfielder position.
Despite the multitude of young outfield options, it is Ryan Freel atop the depth chart at center field. Many Reds fans have been clammoring for an everyday position for Freel for a while, and fans of other teams who have seen what he can do have been amazed that he's been relegated to super-sub. But Freel seems to prefer to move around, so I bet we'll still be seeing plenty of opportunities for the backups to get in their time in CF while Freel tries his hand in left, right, second, maybe catcher. Who knows?
In any event, I'm pleased that the rumors have finally been confirmed and that Griffey is prepared to cover a little less ground to spare that valuable body of his. When he's back in there covering ground at all, that is.