Reds look for a season of moves in 2003

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 2, 2003

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Cincinnati Reds might have just as well rode around this year's media caravan in a U-Haul truck instead of a Greyhound bus.

It'll be a season of moving for the Reds, and not just the shift from dismantled Cinergy Field to their new home in the Great American Ballpark.

Manager Bob Boone is already tinkering with the starting lineup and tinkering with the idea of moving power-hitting Adam Dunn into the leadoff spot.

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Although the 6-foot-6 Dunn had 26 home runs, 71 runs batted in, 28 doubles and a .454 slugging percentage, Boone notes the former Texas Longhorns backup quarterback had a .400 on-base percentage despite a .249 batting average.

"He will be the biggest leadoff hitter of all time," Boone said. "I've always felt that the position of leadoff hitter has to do with on-base percentage and the ability to drive in a run that we've just bunted over.

"Because of our limited pool of candidates, it's going to be Barry Larkin or Adam Dunn. We're going to see how it plays out."

Dunn was third in the National League with 128 walks, but he set a franchise record with 170 strikeouts. He stole 19 bases but was caught nine times and made several base-running blunders.

Larkin, who turns 39, hit .249 in 145 games. He stole 13 bases in 17 attempts and had a .305 on-base percentage.

The idea of moving Dunn isn't the only move for the Reds.

Aaron Boone, son of the manager, will be moving from third base to second base in order to open up a position for Brandon Larson.

With the trade of Todd Walker to Boston, the Reds are in need of a second baseman and a chance to get Larson in the lineup.

Aaron Boone led the team with 87 RBI and tied Dunn for the most home runs. He was voted the team's MVP.

Larson, who played in just 23 games and hit .275 with four HRs and 13 RBI, was voted the Reds top minor league player last season. He appreciates the sacrifice Aaron Boone is making and

he's excited about the opportunity to be in the lineup on a regular basis.

"It's just been a whirlwind offseason for me," Larson said. "Its a testimony to the kind of person Aaron is that he's willing to go over and try it. He's really helped the team out. If anybody can handle that change, I think it's him."

The Reds hope to have a strong outfield with Dunn, a healthy Ken Griffey Jr., and second-year player Austin Kearns. Last season, Kearns batted .315 with 13 home runs, 56 RBI, a .407 on-base percentage, and 24 doubles.

Sean Casey hopes to bounce back from last year when an injury cut his season short. He hit a disappointing .261 with just six HRs and 42 RBI.

Jason LaRue, Kelly Stinnett and Corky Miller will battle for the catching duties.

Pitching will again be a question mark and the Reds plan another move. The late-season experiment of closer Danny Graves as a starter will continue. Graves, who tied his career-high of 32 saves last season, moves into the rotation that includes Jimmy Haynes, Ryan Dempster and Paul Wilson.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

The Reds plan to insert Scott Williamson into the closer role.

"There is some risk in moving Danny Graves, and we understand that," Bob Boone said. "I think he has the capability of being an even better starter than he was a closer."

Williamson had elbow reconstruction surgery two years ago. He was 3-4 with a 2.92 earned run average when he returned last season. He had eight saves.

"Over the last month or so, (Williamson) was like nails as a closer," Reds pitching coach Don Gullett said. "That's one of the reason we're converting Danny Graves to a starter."

Elmer Dessens, who was 7-8 and led the starters with a 3.03 ERA, was traded to Colorado and Sean Estes proved a major disappointment and was released.

Dempster was picked up from Florida in a trade and posted a 10-13 record with 153 strikeouts in 209 innings. Haynes led the Reds in wins (15-10) and had a 4.12 ERA in 196.2 innings.