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03/20/07 10:50 PM ET
Reds to start Griffey in right field
Cincinnati likely to appoint Freel to take over in center
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Everyone assumed that 10-time Gold Glove winner Ken Griffey Jr. would one day be moved out of center field. Nevertheless, Reds manager Jerry Narron put a lot of time and thought into the decision before making it. "I talked with Griff about [the decision] some in September. I didn't take it lightly," Narron said Tuesday night. "I talked with a lot of people to make sure I didn't miss something." Narron announced Monday afternoon that when Griffey returns to action, he would play right field. "We wanted to do what's best for the team and for the individual players," Narron said. "With Ryan Freel and Josh Hamilton in center field, they're two guys we're comfortable playing it. Freelie did a good job there last year. We're doing everything we can to win. I felt it was our best chance." Freel played five different positions over 132 games last season, but logged 44 of those games in center field. Griffey broke his left hand in December while wrestling with his children. He has been rehabilitating since and has not appeared in any exhibition games. The 37-year-old has taken batting practice for more than two weeks but has yet to declare himself 100 percent, because of lingering pain in the hand. A return-to-action date had not been set. "When he says he's ready to play, he'll play," Narron said. Griffey batted .252 with 27 home runs and 72 RBIs last season for Cincinnati. His 563 career home runs tie him with Reggie Jackson for 10th on the all-time list. There is no guarantee that Griffey would be ready for Opening Day on April 2 when the Reds host the Cubs at Great American Ball Park. That could mean a trip to the disabled list to start the season. Back in December, Griffey and the club revealed that the 12-time All-Star was asked to keep an open mind about moving from his customary center field to right field. The prevailing wisdom was that having less territory to patrol would help preserve Griffey's legs and keep him in the lineup more. Leg injuries have marred most of Griffey's seven seasons with the Reds -- he hasn't played 145 games since 2000. He played just 70 games in 2002, followed by 53 games in 2003 and 83 games in 2004. He played 128 games in 2005 and was limited to 109 games last season.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.