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Dickerson unhappy in Reds’ backup role

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Chris Dickerson is disappointed he’s been relegated to a part-time job in the Cincinnati Reds’ outfield instead of being given a chance to be their starting center fielder.

He’s been in this situation before.

“I don’t understand why that is,” Dickerson said. “I don’t know. I have no clue.”

Dickerson had a solid rookie season last year, batting .275 with 11 steals. He thought he’d get more of a chance to play center field, but the Reds signed free agent Willy Taveras before the season began, leaving Dickerson to split the job in left field.

Even when Taveras struggled during the season, Dickerson remained a part-time player. The Reds traded Taveras in the offseason, but rookie Drew Stubbs is the leading candidate to take the job in center.

Dickerson? Back to trying to win a part-time job in left field, just like last season.

Manager Dusty Baker said it has a lot to do with his history of injuries.

Dickerson, a 16th-round draft pick in June 2003, got his first promotion to the majors at the end of the 2008 season. He batted .304 in 31 games with six homers and 15 RBIs, and expected to have a big role with the Reds last year.

They decided to get Taveras to play center instead of giving the job to Dickerson, who wound up sharing left field with Jonny Gomes. When right fielder Jay Bruce broke his right wrist, Dickerson got a chance to fill in there as well. He ended up starting 27 games in left, 19 in center and 13 in right field. He was among the NL leaders in several rookie categories.

The problem? He got hurt a lot.

“Dickerson has as much ability as anybody,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s just a matter of him staying healthy, the same thing I said last year. People want to know why he didn’t play every day, and that’s because I wanted to keep him healthy with his history of injuries.”

He went on the disabled list twice last season, in July for a bruised right shoulder and again in August with a partially torn ligament in his left ankle. He also had a concussion that sidelined him for three games in April, and had back spasms in July.

Dickerson is frustrated that he didn’t get a chance to win the job in center after his 2008 promotion. Stubbs is getting the job based on how he did in his first call-up to the majors last season.

“My 30 games (in 2008) were better and Drew had more at-bats, but Drew is the guy in center this year,” Dickerson said. “I don’t understand that. Drew’s a great player, don’t get me wrong. I’d like to see him make the team and be in center.”

Dickerson hopes his frustration doesn’t come off as grousing.

“It’s kind of angry and it’s frustration and I know it’s going to come out that way,” he said.