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Reds Spring Training Notes


Romano hones his infield skills

by Marc Lancaster
Post staff reporter

SARASOTA, Fla. -- In the interest of increasing his value to the Reds, outfielder Jason Romano is going back to his roots this spring.
Romano was drafted as an infielder and spent much of his minor league career playing second, short and third before the Dodgers moved him to the outfield nearly full time two years ago. He took to the switch immediately, and his interest in infield play tapered off.

That led to an uncomfortable situation last spring when Los Angeles traded him to his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Rays thought they were getting a middle infielder, but Romano saw himself as an outfielder. He played in four games before being waived and picked up by the Reds, who used him exclusively in the outfield.

Now fully recovered from a torn hamstring suffered last season, Romano figured re-discovering some of his infield skills would help his chances to make a very crowded roster.

"I'm really working hard to become a better infielder. Outfield, I feel real comfortable, it's very natural to me. I'm just trying to get that same feeling in the infield."

General manager Dan O'Brien, a longtime Romano proponent from their days with the Rangers' organization, said he believes the 25-year-old can make himself into a "Ryan Freel-type" utility player if he becomes a usable infielder.

"He has been here for about a month working out with Bob Miscik, our minor league field coordinator, specifically in the infield," O'Brien said. "He's putting forth the effort."

For Romano, who hit .154 in 22 games for the Reds last year and .337 in 40 games at Louisville, any way to improve his odds is welcome. He's part of the mix along with players like Jacob Cruz, Luis Lopez, Rob Stratton, Kenny Kelly and A.J. Zapp for the final spot on the Reds' bench.

"It's at a point now where you're just trying to get some playing time and have a better chance to make the squad," Romano said. "The more versatility I can show these guys, the better off I'll be."

TRAVEL TALES -- One day later than the Reds expected and five days later than he had originally planned, Jose Acevedo arrived in camp Thursday morning.

Details of his unexcused absence were murky Wednesday, and not much clearer once Acevedo arrived. But at least he was here.

"What we have heard is there was an identify theft issue that involved him, having to do with customs," O'Brien said. "I don't have any more details than that, but you can bet we're going to get a few more."

Acevedo's explanation was that when he tried to leave the Dominican Republic Saturday, he was stopped by airport officials in his native country. It seems that when his identification information was scanned, another man's picture came up on the computer screen. Despite Acevedo's protests, he said an immigration official told him, "If you think that's you, you need to prove to me that that's you."

That required a trip to his mother's house to produce a birth certificate and other forms of ID, along with the passport he already was carrying. Eventually, he said, he convinced the authorities that he was who he said he was and was able to board a plane.

After all the hassle, though, Acevedo said he's thinking it might be time to permanently move to the U.S., since he spends more time in this country anyway.

"In the Dominican, we take one step forward, then we take one step back," he said, shaking his head.

BIG BOPPERS -- On a day filled mostly with mundane drills, the most entertaining spectacle for the few dozen fans in attendance probably was the morning batting practice session featuring Ken Griffey Jr. and the non-roster invitee Stratton.

His cap on backward, Griffey's familiar smooth swing sent a number of balls arcing over the outfield fence on a back field at the City of Sarasota Sports Complex. Demonstrating considerably more violence, Stratton matched Griffey's home run tally -- at least.

The hulking first baseman/outfielder led Louisville with 12 home runs in only 34 games last year and is known for being an all-or-nothing guy. But when his vicious, compact stroke gets in the way of a pitch, the ball jumps off his bat.
From cincinnatireds.com

02/18/2005 2:44 PM ET
Notes: Milton fine as second fiddle
Left-hander calls Wilson staff ace
<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width=429 border=0><TBODY><TR vAlign=top><TD class=byLine>By Todd Lorenz / MLB.com</TD><TD align=right>http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/cin/ticketing/index.jsp
</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE><TABLE style="PADDING-RIGHT: 0px; PADDING-LEFT: 4px; PADDING-BOTTOM: 0px; PADDING-TOP: 4px" cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 align=right border=0><TBODY><TR><TD><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width=277 bgColor=#000000 border=0><TBODY><TR><TD colSpan=3 height=1>
</TD></TR><TR><TD width=1 rowSpan=2>
</TD><TD width=275>
</TD><TD width=1 rowSpan=2>
</TD></TR><TR><TD class=caption style="PADDING-RIGHT: 4px; PADDING-LEFT: 4px; PADDING-BOTTOM: 2px; PADDING-TOP: 2px" bgColor=#ecf0fb>Eric Milton throws during workouts at the Reds' Spring Training complex. (Al Behrman/AP) </TD></TR><TR><TD colSpan=3 height=1>
</TD></TR><TR><TD bgColor=#cdd1e7 colSpan=3 height=3>
</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>SARASOTA -- Although signing Eric Milton gives the Reds a hurler many believe has true ace potential, the southpaw doesn't see himself starting the season at the top of Cincinnati's rotation.

"I don't consider myself the ace," he said. "I think with what Paul [Wilson] did last season, he deserves the No. 1 spot. Plus you set up righty, lefty, righty that way, and that's a pretty good combination. I think it sets us up pretty good."

Speaking of setups: Closers may get most of the glory out of the bullpen, but Danny Graves knows that a closer is only as good as the guys in front of him, and a starter is only as good as the guys behind him.

"The only way a closer can be any good is to have good setup men," Graves said. "Any closer will tell you that. I mean, the guys who come on in the sixth, seventh, eighth inning, they're coming in with game on the line and usually with guys on base and the heart of the order up. They have to get the tough outs. As a closer, you always get to start fresh -- nobody on, nobody out."

Knuckled under: Backup catcher Javier Valentin had the unenviable task of catching knuckleballer Jared Fernandez during the first spring practice on Thursday.

"No one wanted to do it, so I said, 'I'll do it,'" Valentin said. "I used to catch one in Minnesota a little bit, and someone had to do it. It's tough to hit, but it's tough to catch, too."

Despite being peppered in the legs, arms and chest, Valentin completed the mound session.

"I'm not going to catch them all," he joked. "But if I can catch that, I can catch anything."

Austin arrives: Right-fielder Austin Kearns checked in at Reds camp on Friday. Right now, the full list of position players (not including catchers) in camp consists of Kearns, Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr., Ryan Freel, A.J. Zapp, Rob Stratton, Jason Romano, Ray Olmedo, Anderson Machado, and William Bergolla. Todd Lorenz is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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