Deion arrives early for Reds training camp

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 17, 2000

The Associated Press

The All-Pro defensive back, who is trying to revive his baseball career, was among the first to arrive at the Cincinnati Reds’ training camp.

Thursday, February 17, 2000

Email newsletter signup

The All-Pro defensive back, who is trying to revive his baseball career, was among the first to arrive at the Cincinnati Reds’ training camp. He showed up with the pitchers and catchers, a week before the rest of the position players.

Sanders, 32, has only a nonguaranteed Triple-A contract and knows he has a lot of work to do to win a spot on the opening day roster.

”A lot of work, a lot of repetitions – the type of work I’ve never done before,” Sanders said. ”That’s why I’m here now. … I wanted to come in here, rehab my knee and hit, hit, hit, hit.”

Major league baseball gave Sanders permission to report early because he had surgery last month to repair a medial meniscus tear in his right knee. He will have to regain the speed that would make him appealing to the Reds as a leadoff hitter and base stealer.

Reds general manager Jim Bowden, a fan of Sanders, hopes the two-sport star has a good spring. Bowden envisions him at the top of a batting order that would include Barry Larkin, Ken Griffey Jr., Dante Bichette and Sean Casey.

”He has to get on base and have that same blazing speed he’s always had where he can steal second and third at will,” Bowden said. ”Every time he gets on, it should be a run or a chance to be a run.”

Sanders has not played baseball since 1997, instead concentrating on football with the Dallas Cowboys. His batting stroke is rusty.

”It’s been a while,” he said. ”But with the work I’m going to put forth, people are going to forget that.”

Sanders said he got the desire to return to baseball when he sat in the stands as a spectator last June in Arlington, Texas, to watch the Texas Rangers play Colorado.

”I just sat out there looking and said, ‘My God, this is what I used to do,”’ he said. ”That’s when I really started considering it.”

The Cowboys, however, are not pleased that Sanders wants to try baseball again. They are considering cutting him in June because of his $12.7 million price tag for 2000.

Sanders, who hit .273 and stole 56 bases with the Reds in 1997, has a .266 lifetime average and 183 stolen bases in 609 major-league games. He played for the New York Yankees in 1989-90, the Atlanta Braves in 1991-93, split the season with the Braves and Reds in ’94, split ’95 with Cincinnati and San Francisco and sat out ’96.

The Reds are loaded with outfielders, including Dmitri Young who agreed to a $1.95 million, one-year contract on Wednesday. Young, 26, batted .300 last season with 14 homers and 56 RBIs in 373 at-bats and made $375,000. He had been scheduled for an arbitration hearing Friday in Tampa.

Young was the last Reds player eligible for arbitration. Cincinnati split its two cases that went to hearings, beating pitcher Steve Parris ($1.4 million) and losing to pitcher Scott Sullivan ($1.1 million).

The team settled with outfielder Alex Ochoa ($862,500), second baseman Pokey Reese ($1.95 million), outfielder Michael Tucker ($3.5 million for two years) and pitcher Gabe White ($630,000).