Notes: Depth gives Narron options

Notes: Depth gives Narron options

CINCINNATI -- Depth has been one of the Reds' assets this season. That fact has been most apparent since Ken Griffey Jr. was placed on the disabled list.

"That just shows how valuable Ryan Freel is," said Reds manager Jerry Narron. "I think he's been pretty successful being used the way we have used him."

Freel, who has started 14 games in center field, has helped compensate for the loss of Griffey's run production by getting on base and manufacturing scoring opportunities with his speed.

Freel has reached base safely via a hit or walk in 19 of his 20 appearances. He is batting .262 and ranks third in the Major Leagues with eight stolen bases.

"Coming off the bench is a little tougher than starting a game," Freel said. "I play the game hard. That's the way it's supposed to be played. I don't know what's going to happen [when Griffey returns], but we're winning. That's the important thing."

Whether it be depth in the outfield or the infield, Narron likes having those options.

"I just try to put guys in a position to be successful based on the matchups," he said. "I like to give guys a day off to keep them fresh and get other guys at-bats."

Friday night was a good example.

Narron rested Edwin Encarnacion, who leads the club with 23 RBIs, and started Rich Aurilia at third base.

"We sat a guy last night who's in the top five in RBIs," said Narron. "And, we still had a pretty good guy at third base."

Aurilia went 3-for-5 with two runs scored.

Griffey takes next step: Griffey ran the bases and took batting practice on Saturday, taking another step toward returning to the Reds' everyday lineup.

Griffey was placed on the disabled list on April 17, five days after he strained a tendon in his right knee during a game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Although he was eligible to be reinstated on Friday, Narron said it'll likely be a few more days.

"Griff is probably still a day or two away, at the earliest," he said. "We're looking at sometime next week before he can play."

Team player: Adam Dunn, who hasn't homered since April 17, says his drought is designed to buy Griffey some time.

"I'm trying to wait to start hitting homers while he's out," Dunn said. "I don't want to get too far ahead of him."

Ross recovering: Cody Ross, who was acquired from the Dodgers on Wednesday for a player to be named later, made his first plate appearance as a Red on Friday night, and it was a painful one. Ross pinch-hit in the sixth inning and was struck on the pinky finger of his left hand while swinging at a pitch from Astros starter Roy Oswalt. It was ruled a strikeout, and Ross was left with a bad bruise. X-rays performed Friday night were negative.

"I know it's bruised real bad," said Narron. "I don't know if he can swing a bat or not. We'll see."

Chief Bender honored: Longtime baseball executive and scout Sheldon "Chief" Bender was honored in an on-field ceremony prior to Saturday's Reds and Astros game.

Bender, who retired in December after 64 years, spent the past 39 years as a member of the Reds front office working in scouting and player development. As director of the Reds farm system from 1967-89, Bender had a hand in developing many future Reds stars such as Johnny Bench, Dave Concepcion, Ken Griffey Sr., Don Gullett, Mario Soto, Tom Browning, Paul O'Neill, Chris Sabo, Eric Davis and Barry Larkin.

In 2002, the Reds renamed their Minor League player of the year award the Sheldon "Chief" Bender Award.

Coming up: The Reds conclude their three-game series with the Astros at Great American Ball Park on Sunday at 1:15 p.m. ET. Right-hander Elizardo Ramirez, who earned his first big-league victory in his season debut on Wednesday, will start for the Reds. Ramirez allowed just two earned runs and six hits in seven innings at Washington. He also collected his first career base hit with a seventh-inning single. Ramirez will be opposed by right-hander Taylor Buchholz, who is making his first career appearance against the Reds.

Jeff Wallner is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.