Dickerson just looking for a chance

Published 3:28 am Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chris Dickerson feels left out.

The outfielder was one of the Cincinnati’s pleasant surprises near the end of another disappointing season last year. He took over in left field when Adam Dunn was traded in August, and impressed with his speed and defense before hurting his ankle.

With spring training about to start in a few weeks, Dickerson is getting the idea that most fans have written him off. When he was part of the Reds’ media caravan that stopped in Evansville, Ind., last week, fans asked manager Dusty Baker about his plans for left field.

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‘‘Two guys back-to-back asked Dusty — and I was sitting right next to him at the podium — ’Who is going to play left field this year?’’’ Dickerson said. ‘‘Then the next question was, ’When (top draft pick) Yonder Alonso moves up, will Joey Votto play left field?’’’

Dickerson took it as an insult.

‘‘I thought to myself, ’So, hey, where am I getting moved to?’’’ Dickerson said. ‘‘I bit my tongue not to say it out loud. I’m a mild-mannered person, but that was such a slap in the face.’’

He’ll get a chance to save face in spring training.

The career minor leaguer finally got his chance when Dunn was traded last season, and took full advantage. He batted .304 in 31 games and stole five bases in eight tries. He batted leadoff in all of his 25 starts.

He developed a stress fracture in his left ankle that sidelined him for most of September and led to surgery. He’s expected to be at full strength when Reds pitchers and catchers report for the start of camp in Sarasota, Fla., on Feb. 14.

Dickerson, who turns 27 on April 10, will get a chance to earn at least a part-time role in left field. Jay Bruce is in right and Willy Taveras, signed as a free agent, will bat leadoff and play center most of the time.

‘‘I told Chris to fight for the job because it has been a long, hard road for him to get to the big leagues,’’ Baker said. ‘‘I told him I wasn’t here to give away his job, but I’m not here to give him the job, either. I’ll give him the opportunity to win the job, which is what he did last year.’’

Dickerson, who bats left-handed, was a 16th-round draft pick in 2003. He batted .303 for Class A Dayton in 2004, but never came close to matching those early numbers until last season. He was the organization’s player of the month in July, batting .326 with eight homers and seven steals. That put him in line to take over when Dunn got traded.

Baker also could use Jerry Hairston Jr. and Jonny Gomes in left.

‘‘If we started right now, it probably would be a platoon situation with him and a right-handed bat, either Hairston or Gomes,’’ Baker said.