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03/30/08 4:30 PM ET
Hatteberg to man first on Opening Day
Manager Baker plans on platoon between veteran, Votto
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- It's difficult to platoon two left-handed hitters at the same position, but that's what the Reds will be doing at first base for the time being.
Manager Dusty Baker didn't name a regular first baseman between rookie Joey Votto and veteran Scott Hatteberg.
"The regular first baseman is who is playing that day," Baker said Sunday just before a pre-Opening Day workout at Great American Ball Park.
On Monday, that means Hatteberg, who will be batting seventh vs. the Diamondbacks.
Cincinnati's lineup will look like this: CF Corey Patterson; SS Jeff Keppinger; RF Ken Griffey Jr.; 2B Brandon Phillips; LF Adam Dunn; 3B Edwin Encarnacion; 1B Hatteberg; C Javy Valentin; P Aaron Harang.
Votto, one of the organization's top young players, entered Spring Training as the favorite to be the everyday first baseman. But the 24-year-old batted .206 (13-for-63) with two home runs and seven RBIs. He walked seven times and struck out 11.
"Joey has great upside potential, but Hatteberg had a very good spring," Baker said. "A lot of times, we'll match up [vs. the starting pitcher]. Joey came on a little stronger at the end. You wished he had done a little better. The fact that he's here is basically on what he did last year."
Hatteberg, 38, batted .386 (22-for-57) with one homer and six RBIs in spring.
"I know that there's no laid out formula [on] how we'll be used," Hatteberg said. "I assume if I do well against somebody, that would be my day. With two lefties, it's really the only way he can do it. [Baker] is pretty good about letting you know when you're going to be used, which helps especially in an unknown situation."
After seeing Dunn not in a groove and Encarnacion struggle at the plate during spring, it was important for Baker to go with the hotter hand in Hatteberg.
"I need somebody in that spot down there that's swinging pretty good," Baker said. "You don't want that many guys in a row that aren't at the top of their game."
Other lingering issues remained status quo on the eve of the Reds' opener. Officially, the roster remained at 28 players. Non-roster invites Patterson and pitchers Johnny Cueto, Kent Mercker and Mike Lincoln have made the club, but have not been added to the roster officially.
Pitcher Matt Belisle, shortstop Alex Gonzalez and catcher David Ross have yet to be officially placed on the disabled list. Pitcher Mike Stanton, who was cut late last week, still has to officially be taken off of the roster.
Ross missed most of camp with back spasms, but was able to play some games during the final week. However, Baker wasn't satisfied that Ross was ready to start the season with the club.
"I tried to justify it. I just couldn't do it," Baker said. "He's physically ready. The question was is he baseball ready? After last year [when he batted .203], you want to give him the best chance not to have a repeat year from last year because these things creep into your mind. It creeps into the minds of fans. That's what people remember. He didn't like it and I didn't expect him to like it. I was doing the best for him and for us."
Under rainy conditions, the Reds held batting practice and got re-acquainted with their home ballpark. A few hundred fans, mostly season-ticket holders, were in attendance. Owner/CEO Bob Castellini and general manager Wayne Krivsky also took in the session from the field.
"There are some guys that don't know the field yet," Baker said of the players. "The new guys, we want them to know the caroms and the nuances of our field so it is our field and not just another ballpark. I want it to be our ballpark."
The only players not participating were outfielders Ryan Freel and Norris Hopper and pitchers Edinson Volquez and Josh Fogg. All remained in Sarasota, Fla., to get extra work. Fogg threw 93 pitches in a complete-game effort during a Minor League scrimmage.