© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
03/06/07 7:21 PM ET
Notes: Versatility is key for Bellhorn
Ability to play all four infield positions key to veteran
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Reds manager Jerry Narron craves versatile role players for his bench the way a coffee addict might covet a tall latte from Starbucks in the morning. For both, one isn't enough. Able to play every infield position and the outfield, non-roster invite Mark Bellhorn certainly fits Narron's mold. And it just happens that the switch-hitting Bellhorn has started all six of the Reds' Grapefruit League games, including Tuesday at second base against Tampa Bay. The 32-year-old Bellhorn, who was 0-for-2 in the game and batting .286 (4-for-14) this spring, has also seen action at first base and third base. "He's looked good everywhere we've put him," Narron said. "The more things you do, the more opportunity you have to play," Bellhorn said. "Me showing that in spring will hopefully open up a couple of more doors as far as playing time and show what I can do." The Reds signed Bellhorn to a Minor League contract in January and invited him to camp. He felt his chances would be decent to make the team. A .231 career hitter that batted .190 with eight homers in 115 games with the Padres last season, the 10-year veteran was part of the 2004 World Series winning Red Sox. Bellhorn has battled his way onto the 25-man roster before. After he began 2002 with the Cubs on a Minor League deal and earned a spot on the Opening Day roster, he hit a career-high 27 home runs. "There, I was pretty much not going to make the team and then I had a good spring and made it," Bellhorn said. "I think I actually do better in these situations because the competition is there and I know what I've got to do to make this team and get playing time." The race to be Cincinnati's "25th man" will be one with many variables. The Reds already have one reserve utility infielder locked up in Juan Castro. The decision could come down to if Narron wants a second extra infielder or a second extra outfielder. Then there's the question of whether Rule 5 Draft outfielder Josh Hamilton makes the club, or third catcher Chad Moeller. Of course, injuries also play a part. One of Bellhorn's fellow competitors, infielder Jeff Keppinger, broke his right ring finger on Sunday and will be out 4-6 weeks. "There are like five, six or seven guys for that last spot," Narron said. "Bellhorn has been right there the whole time. There are a lot of things that go into it." Conine debuts: After missing the first five spring games with a sore lower back, Jeff Conine debuted with the Reds on Tuesday. As the designated hitter, Conine went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts. "I only took one bad swing," Conine said. Which one?
"It was the only one I took," the veteran replied, drawing laughter.The 40-year-old Conine, acquired in December in a trade with the Phillies, is a 14-year big league veteran and certainly no stranger to preparing for the regular season. He didn't expect the injury to have put him too far behind. "Not at all," Conine said. "It's all rusty right now anyway. Just to get in games, get out there and see some pitching, it will be good. I don't think I've missed much." Narron said that Conine could play first base in Wednesday's game vs. the Yankees, if he still felt well enough. Still sore: Center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. has remained out of game action this spring as he rehabilitates the left hand he broke in December. Griffey has been limited to batting practice and has been running and throwing on the side. "He swung some yesterday and he said he was still sore," Narron said. There was no timetable known for when Griffey would get into the lineup. "I told him, 'When you feel like you're ready to go, we'll get you in there,'" Narron said. Back in Sarasota: Reliever Dustin Hermanson, who was signed to a Minor League deal last week, threw a simulated game at Reds camp on Tuesday morning. "He looked really good. I was very pleased with how he looked," said Narron, who did not know yet when Hermanson would get into a game. Outfielder Josh Hamilton, who did not make the trip Tuesday because of shin splints, was expected to be in Wednesday's starting lineup against the Yankees. Injured reliever Gary Majewski (right shoulder) could begin throwing off a mound by this weekend. Majewski has been on a rehab tossing schedule since camp opened, but Narron felt there was enough time for the right-hander to be caught up and ready for the regular season. "There's a chance," Narron said. "If he has no setbacks." Coming up: Bobby Livingston will make his second appearance, and first start, in Wednesday's 7:15 p.m. ET game against the Yankees at Tampa. Elizardo Ramirez and David Weathers are also expected to see action. New York has scheduled Andy Pettitte to start.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.