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After thriving under the gentle approach of manager Davey
Johnson for most of the last three seasons, the Reds will
experience a different sort of stewardship under 43-year-old
rookie Ray Knight. Call him fiery, call him arrogant, call him
"competitive"--which is what his wife, golfer Nancy Lopez, did
after she canned him as her caddie during the 1989 LPGA tour.
That was after Knight had misinformed her on two pin placements
and repeatedly second-guessed her club selection. "I was
offended by everything he said, and he was offended by
everything I said," Lopez explained at the time. "So it didn't
work very well."

Whereas Johnson coddled, Knight will hector. But while Johnson
had a solid veteran lineup that required only a little
massaging, Knight has a more suspect unit that will demand a
firmer hand. And if that hand isn't too firm, Knight might be
the better flag bearer for Cincinnati in 1996. "He's going to be
a hard-nosed manager," says catcher Eddie Taubensee. "To the
veterans, I don't think it matters, but to middle-of-the-road
guys like me, it might help. It might bring something extra to
the team."

With the payroll substantially slashed, the extras will be
necessities if the Reds are to win their second straight
division title. Gone because of their fat contracts are
clutch-hitting outfielder Ron Gant, steady lefthander David
Wells, steal-snuffing catcher Benito Santiago and much of the
lifesaving bench. And ace righthander Jose Rijo won't be
available until late in the season--if then--as he rehabs from
the ligament-transplant surgery he had on his pitching elbow
last August.

But Cincinnati still has the guts of its glory days in shortstop
Barry Larkin, 31, the 1995 NL MVP; rightfielder Reggie Sanders
(page 88), 28, who finished in the top 10 in virtually every
major offensive category last season; first baseman Hal Morris,
30, a lifetime .308 hitter; lefthander Pete Schourek, 26,
runner-up for the NL's Cy Young in '95; and stopper Jeff
Brantley, 32, who converted 87.5% of his save opportunities. To
that nucleus general manager Jim Bowden has added a handful of
minor league phenoms and a slew of bargain-basement veterans.
Depending on the combination Knight chooses and how it clicks,
the Reds will be a) very fast, b) very powerful or c) neither.

Cincinnati's lineup has three openings, and the competition for
each is as densely packed as the Volkswagen at the circus. At
third, Jeff Branson exhibited excellent range and decent pop
last season, but he'll have to fend off Eric Owens, 25, the 1995
American Association MVP, who batted .314 with 12 homers and 33
steals in Triple A; perennial big league prospect Willie Greene,
24; and ex-Red Chris Sabo, 34, who has battled injuries with
four different teams over the past four years.

If Knight opts for speed in the crowded outfield, he could
deploy veteran leftfielder Vince Coleman (42 steals with Kansas
City and Seattle in '95) with either 23-year-old centerfielder
Curtis Goodwin (22 steals in 87 games with Baltimore) or the
incumbent, Thomas Howard, who had 17 steals and batted .302 last
year. If Knight prefers power, he can choose among several
sluggers, including the lefthanded Eric Anthony and righties
Mike Kelly, Brian Hunter and Eric Davis, another ex-Red.

While an aggressive offense was Knight's focus when he was
Johnson's top assistant, now his success will also hinge on
whether he handles his pitching staff as deftly as his
predecessor did. After coming over from the Giants last July for
Deion Sanders, Mark Portugal went 6-2 with a 2.57 ERA in his
last 10 starts, and Dave Burba had a string of 37 2/3 scoreless
innings at Riverfront.

The bullpen will miss setup man Mike Jackson, and Bowden's quest
for a lefthanded specialist--Trevor Wilson? Bryan Hickerson? Gabe
White?--continues. "I've been through the list, and it's almost
comical," Bowden says. "I've brought in 18 or 19 since I took
this job [in 1992], and no one has ever worked out. But I'll
keep trying."

Give Bowden credit: In a small market and with limited funds, he
has kept Cincinnati competitive by keeping his core corps
intact, refusing to raid the farm system and luring good free
agents at low cost. "We'll do whatever is in our financial
parameters to win," Bowden says. The question is whether Knight
will push the 1996 Reds as far as they can go, or too far.


COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER COVER PHOTO [Varies by region] Red Alert MVP Barry Larkin makes Cincinnati a title threat

COLOR PHOTO: TIM DEFRISCO For new manager Knight, it helps to inherit Larkin, the reigning MVP. [Barry Larkin]


1995 Team Statistics (NL rank in parentheses)

Batting Average .270 (4)
Home Runs 161 (3)
ERA 4.03 (4)
Fielding Pct. .986 (1)

The Good-Hands People

The Reds allowed the fewest unearned runs in the National League
last season (45 in 144 games) as their middle infielders
committed a combined total of only 18 errors (Barry Larkin, 11;
Bret Boone, 4; Jeff Branson, 2; Mariano Duncan, 1). That's an
average of one error every eight games by the second base and
shortstop positions--an alltime NL record. The middle infielders
on the 1990 Orioles (mostly Cal and Bill Ripken) combined to
commit only 13 errors in 161 games, an average of one every 12.4
games--the alltime major league record.

Fewest Errors per Game for NL Middle Infielders

1995 Reds
Games 144
Errors 18
G/E 8.00
Regular shortstop, Barry Larkin,
second baseman Bret Boone

1987 Cardinals
[Games] 162
[Errors] 21
[G/E] 7.71
[Regular shortstop,] Ozzie Smith,
[second baseman] Tommy Herr

1991 Cardinals
[Games] 162
[Errors] 23
[G/E] 7.04
[Regular shortstop,] Ozzie Smith,
[second baseman] Jose Oquendo

1984 Cardinals
[Games] 162
[Errors] 23
[G/E] 7.04
[Regular shortstop,] Ozzie Smith,
[second baseman] Tommy Herr

1977 Reds
[Games] 162
[Errors] 23
[G/E] 7.04
[Regular shortstop,] Dave Concepcion,
[second baseman] Joe Morgan

1995 Braves
[Games] 144
[Errors] 21
[G/E] 6.86
[Regular shortstop,] Jeff Blauser,
[second baseman] Mark Lemke

1979 Phillies
[Games] 163
[Errors] 24
[G/E] 6.79
[Regular shortstop,] Larry Bowa,
[second baseman] Manny Trillo

1972 Phillies
[Games] 156
[Errors] 23
[G/E] 6.78
[Regular shortstop,] Larry Bowa,
[second baseman] Denny Doyle


Last season outfielder Mike Kelly, the No. 2 overall pick in the
1991 draft, whiffed once every 2.8 at bats for the Braves, hit
.120 over the last three months and was left off Atlanta's
postseason roster. But after reviewing all of his at bats, Reds
G.M. Jim Bowden picked up the 25-year-old righthanded-hitting
Kelly in January. Bowden believes Atlanta robbed Kelly of his
power and confidence by asking him to spray the ball around. The
Reds think Kelly can bat .240 to .260 and mash 20-plus home
runs, even if he fans 150 times. "We want Mike to have success
at what he can do before we teach him to do what he can't,"
Bowden says.



LF Vince Coleman[*] .288, 5, 29, 42
CF Curtis Goodwin[*].263, 1, 24, 22
SS Barry Larkin .319, 15, 66, 51
RF Reggie Sanders .306, 28, 99, 36
1B Hal Morris .279, 11, 51, 1
2B Bret Boone .267, 15, 68, 5
C Eddie Taubensee .284, 9, 44, 2
3B Jeff Branson .260, 12, 45, 2


OF Thomas Howard .302, 3, 26, 17
OF Eric Anthony .269, 5, 23, 2
IF Brian Hunter .215, 1, 9, 2


LH Pete Schourek 18-7, 3.22
LH John Smiley 12-5, 3.46
RH Dave Burba 10-4, 3.97
RH Mark Portugal 11-10, 4.01
RH Kevin Jarvis 3-4, 5.70


RH Jeff Brantley 28, 2.82
RH Xavier Hernandez 3, 4.60
RH Chuck McElroy 0, 6.02
LH Gabe White[*] 0, 7.01

[*]New acquisition (R) Rookie