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06/06/08 7:38 PM ET
Shortstop status could be solved shortly
Keppinger running, nearing rehab; Gonzalez making progress
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
MIAMI -- After losing two shortstops before this season was even eight weeks old, the Reds could eventually have an embarrassment of riches at that position. Both Alex Gonzalez and Jeff Keppinger are making progress from their respective leg fractures. "I'm getting closer," said Gonzalez, who suffered a compression fracture in his left knee in February during Spring Training. But Keppinger, who suffered a fractured left kneecap when he fouled a ball off his leg on May 13, is closest to returning. He ran the bases on Friday at the club's spring complex in Sarasota, Fla. If Keppinger's knee responds well, he's expected to run the bases again on Saturday and could DH in an extended camp game on Sunday before starting a Minor League rehab assignment. He is on the 15-day disabled list and was originally slated to miss 4-6 weeks. When Gonzalez went down, Keppinger stepped in and did a solid job right away on both sides of the game. He batted .324 in 39 games with three home runs and 21 RBIs, which led the club at the time. Gonzalez, who is on the 60-day DL, has yet to appear in a game this season. Under a hot sun on a humid Friday, Gonzalez was running on the outfield grass at Dolphin Stadium. He started running for the first time last weekend and was at "80-85 percent," but had to dial it back a little. "Hitting and fielding feels good -- the problem is the running," said Gonzalez, who played for the Marlins from 1998-2005 and still lives in Miami. "I still feel something there. I'm running 70-75 percent, but that's good." A rehab assignment date for Gonzalez has not been determined, nor is there a target date for a return to the Reds. "It's my decision," Gonzalez said. "I want to feel 100 percent. I don't want to jump in there and get hurt again and start over. When I'm 100 percent pain-free, I'll try to play everyday and help the team." Without Gonzalez and Keppinger, Jerry Hairston Jr. has picked up most of the slack at shortstop. Hairston entered the night batting .315 in 36 games and has played good defense. "Where would we be without Hairston?" Reds manager Dusty Baker asked. "Where would we be without Keppinger?" As for how Baker will accommodate all three players, that's a wait-and-see situation. "You always say you have to have depth," Baker said. "Something always works out, whether you want it to or not. We feel fortunate when we have enough players. The worst part is to not have enough good players."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.