Notes: Womack wants second to himself

Notes: Womack wants second to himself

SARASOTA, Fla. -- For new Reds infielder Tony Womack, Dec. 8, 2005 was probably the best day he had last year.

That was the day Womack was dealt by the Yankees to Cincinnati for two Minor Leaguers. He opened last season as New York's starting second baseman, but he soon lost his job to rookie Robinson Cano. He was playing in the outfield after one month and was used sporadically in the second half.

Womack, a career .273 hitter, batted .307 for the National League-champion Cardinals in 2004 before signing a two-year contract with New York. He batted just .249 with 15 RBIs in 108 games while posting a .276 on-base percentage for the Yankees.

It proved to be one of the most difficult seasons of a 12-year big league career.

"I went through it because they put me through it. It wasn't like I did it to myself," Womack said. "I still like to play. It's no fun knowing that you can still play and contribute to somebody when this team is holding you back. The Yankees held me back."

Womack, who won a World Series with Arizona in 2001, said his one year in St. Louis is better proof of what he can do for the Reds, not his one year in New York.

"The only thing that makes me mad is it messes up my baseball card," said Womack, who reported to Reds camp Tuesday and completed his first workout. "I was consistent for a long time and then that comes up. It was a learning experience for me. I'm a stronger person. I had to be. I had to bite my tongue a lot. I had to keep myself going and make sure I got my work in."

Second base could be up for grabs in Cincinnati, which has no defined regular named yet. Womack, Rich Aurilia and utility player Ryan Freel are all in the mix with manager Jerry Narron planning on all getting chances this year while also moving elsewhere around the field.

But the 36-year-old Womack has ambitions on claiming the spot outright.

"That's all I care about," he said. "[Splitting time] is not what I want. That's what I'm going for. I'm going to take it. I'm going to go out there and do it. That's the only thing I know.

"My job is to make their decision easy."

Former Reds general manager Dan O'Brien traded for Womack because he liked the veteran's speed. Although his career-high 72 stolen bases in 1999 with the Diamondbacks are a distant memory, Womack stole 27 bases for the Yankees last season. However, he has a relatively low career on-base percentage -- .316.

"The intangibles never show up in the stats," Womack said. "People say I don't have a good on-base percentage. But when I get on, a lot of things happen. There are no stats for that."

All present: Womack and non-roster outfielder Quinton McCracken were the latest arrivals to Reds camp Tuesday, the reporting date for position players. The club's first workout is scheduled for late Wednesday morning.

All 61 players in camp were expected to be present and accounted for at the team dinner Tuesday night hosted by chief executive officer Bob Castellini. Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench is the featured speaker. Bench was in uniform during the morning workout for pitchers and catchers.

Golf with the Gov.: Center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. was excused from the team dinner because he will be a guest of Florida Governor Jeb Bush at a Tallahassee gala celebrating Black History Month. Griffey will present an award to Hall of Famer Willie Mays.

Griffey is an infrequent golfing partner of the governor's. The two last played together in January. Did the outfielder let Bush win?

"Nah. We more or less had fun," Griffey said.

Go Lady Eagles: Narron was pleased knowing that the girls basketball team he coaches during the offseason won its first-round game in the North Carolina state high school tournament on Monday.

The Rosewood Lady Eagles of Goldsboro, N.C., are 20-4 for the season and Narron's daughter, Clare, plays for the team. How did the girls lose their four games?

"I wasn't there," said Narron, who was 16-0 when running the bench. He missed the losing games because of Reds obligations. He had Monday's play-by-play action relayed to him over his cellular phone.

"I had a parent there tell me he'd fly down here and pick me up every day and fly me back and forth if I could coach the games," Narron said.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.