09/12/2002 8:15 pm ET
MLBeat: Casey toughed it out
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- This will go down as the worst of Sean Casey's five seasons with the Cincinnati Reds. It also could be remembered as the first baseman's finest effort.
Casey, 28, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder Thursday and should be sufficiently healed to take part in Spring Training, team physician Dr. Tim Kremchek said. Kremchek estimated that Casey can resume hitting in about three months but will be restricted from resuming full baseball activities for four to five months.
Kremchek discovered during the two-hour procedure that the first baseman's left shoulder was injured much more extensively than originally believed.
"It goes to show you he toughed it out pretty good," Kremchek said. "I'm absolutely shocked he was able to play the way he played. I couldn't see how he could bring the bat across the plate and follow through. There's no question in my mind that this is the reason his power was off and his stroke was off."
Instead of repairing a small rotator cuff tear, as Kremchek originally expected, he had to fix tears in various places in and around Casey's shoulder -- the teres minor muscle, the top and back of his labrum and the rotator cuff. Kremchek said that Casey also had a badly inflamed bursa.
"It was obviously a lot worse than we thought from any of the four MRIs we had done," Kremchek said.
Under these circumstances, Casey's season statistics -- a .261 average, six homers and 42 RBIs -- are remarkable, despite being a career low. After initially feeling discomfort in his shoulder late in spring training, he batted over .300 through early June before his average began to fall steadily.
Reds manager Bob Boone noticed that opponents pounded Casey with fastballs.
"When there's a weakness, you try to compensate, and it takes you out of hitting position," Boone said. "When you're out of hitting position, you're pretty weak."
With the Reds in pursuit of a postseason spot, Casey kept playing until he made his first trip to the disabled list on July 23; he was batting .264 at the time. His physical condition and batting average briefly improved after the Reds reinstated him on Aug. 9, but the pain and the Reds' fall from contention forced him back to the DL on Sept. 9.
Charting Chen: While several Reds pitchers -- Danny Graves, Joey Hamilton, John Riedling, and Scott Sullivan among them -- seem destined to change or expand their roles, Bruce Chen seems destined to play the role of fill-in: The Reds will use him next year wherever they need him most.
"I think his future is starting, but it depends on where he 'slots,'" Boone said.
"There's a lot of potential there," pitching coach Don Gullett said of Chen, adding that a strengthening program might help the left-hander develop into a full-fledged starter. "That would dictate whether he'd be durable enough to throw a lot of innings," Gullett said.
Chen, who has switched between starting and relieving throughout his Major League career, said that he would follow a starter's regimen this off-season, as he does every year. "I know they don't want me to be a closer," he said. But he could scale back to situational or long relief, if necessary.
Chen, acquired from Montreal on April 5, is 2-5 with a 5.69 ERA overall, though he has done his best work for the Reds out of the bullpen. He had no record with a 3.62 ERA in 33 relief appearances for Cincinnati, while allowing five runs in four innings in his lone Reds start.
"At times, he's been really good; at times, he hasn't been good," Boone said.
Quick pitches: Barry Larkin's first-inning double was his 34th of the season, matching a career high established in 1998. ... Left-hander Gabe White (left groin) will join the Reds for next week's four-game series in Pittsburgh. Boone said he hopes that White, who has begun throwing off a mound, can pitch a simulated game there, a precursor to being reinstated. ... By contrast, right fielder Austin Kearns (left hamstring) will not accompany the team to Pittsburgh, another sign that the rookie won't heal in time to play again this year. Kearns jogged lightly on Wednesday and conceded that "it's going to take a little more time" for his injury to heal. "It's frustrating," Kearns said. "That's basically the best word I can use for it." ... From Friday through Sunday, the Reds will participate in the annual U.S. Marine Corps Toys For Tots program. Collection barrels will be stationed at each Cinergy Field gate through the second inning. All new, unwrapped toys will be donated to the needy.
Fantasy Edge: Count on Barry Larkin batting near the top of the order Friday night against Chicago, while Todd Walker sinks lower in the order, despite his recent hot streak. Larkin has hit .357 (5-for-14) against Kerry Wood, the Cubs' probable starter, while Walker is 0-for-13 lifetime against the right-hander.
Chris Haft covers the Reds for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.