© 2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
08/05/06 2:05 AM ET
Notes: Stability paying off for Aurilia
Infielder benefiting from everyday play, regular position
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Playing every day lately has been quite becoming for infielder Rich Aurilia's offensive production for the Reds. Aurilia entered Friday batting .339 (20-for-59) with three homers and seven RBIs since the All-Star break, while playing 17 of the last 19 games. His on-base-plus slugging percentage was a robust .985. In the first half, he batted .267 with an .807 OPS. Most of the 34-year-old's plate appearances have come while playing regularly at third base and batting fourth. Because Edwin Encarnacion was a fixture at the spot, Aurilia saw a reduced amount of playing time in the first half. But his solid glove created increased playing time in place of the more error-prone Encarnacion. "I'm a guy that's used to playing every day," Aurilia said. "Ask any hitter -- it's hard to get on a roll when you're not playing consistently. Earlier in the year, I was just playing against lefties. Then I started playing against some really tough righties. Then I started playing against everybody. When you play consistently, you have a chance to find your comfort zone. I think that has a lot to do with it." Playing mostly one position might have benefited Aurilia as well. He had hits in 20 of 23 games since July 1, but was 0-for-3 as the Reds notched only two hits in Thursday's 3-0 loss to the Dodgers. "Does it help knowing you're going to be in there at one spot? Yeah," Aurilia said. "Because anytime you play a lot and can come in and not have to look at the lineup and know where you'll be, mentally that takes a little off your mind. We don't have the luxury around here to do that. We have a lot of different lineups and a lot of different guys playing." Incidentally, Friday marked Reds manager Jerry Narron's 94th different lineup used in 109 games this season. Still, Aurilia had gotten so used to being at third base lately that he was surprised when he found out Thursday he was the starting second baseman as Brandon Phillips was rested. It was only Aurilia's second start at second base this season, his first since April 15. "It's weird," Aurilia said. "Because the other day, I was thinking, 'I don't know if anybody remembers that I played shortstop for 10 years and 70 games at second base last year, because I hadn't played there in a while.' I showed up yesterday and I was at second." On Friday, with left-hander Chuck James pitching for Atlanta, Aurilia started at first base for lefty hitter Scott Hatteberg. Lately, Narron has been seeking chances to boost the offense by having both Aurilia and Encarnacion in the lineup. "It helps that I've been in pennant races before and played through times like this," Aurilia said. "To me, it shows more that I move around. They trust me to play anywhere and I have confidence to play anywhere." Aurilia went 1-for-4 with a sixth-inning double and scored a run in Friday's 5-4 win over Atlanta. Injury report: Reds relievers Kent Mercker and Matt Belisle threw bullpen sessions Friday afternoon without issue. Mercker, on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to July 21, with left elbow inflammation, will be watched over the next couple of days to see how his arm responds to the session. It's possible he could be sent on a Minor League rehabilitation assignment. "That's something we'll talk about," Narron said. It's a similar situation for Belisle, who has been out since July 10 with a lower back strain. Friday was the right-hander's second bullpen work this week and he could soon be ready to see game action. Narron conceded there is a challenging roster decision looming, once Mercker and Belisle are ready to be activated. The club significantly turned over its bullpen staff last month and it has few people it can remove to make room. "We just want to make sure that everybody is healthy enough to come back," Narron said. "That's the biggest question." Rare rest: Reds left fielder Adam Dunn was given a rare break from the starting lineup on Friday. Rookie Chris Denorfia started in left field in his place. Dunn, who had missed only one game all season, was 1-for-12 with nine strikeouts in the Reds' three-game series with the Dodgers. Narron felt it was also a good opportunity to give Dunn time off against a lefty pitcher. Coming up: Pitching on three days' rest, Bronson Arroyo (9-7, 3.31 ERA) will make his ninth bid for 10 wins against the Braves on Saturday at 1:20 p.m. ET. Jason Shiell (0-2, 6.39 ERA) will start for Atlanta.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.