Left-field competition wide open
Gomes, Dickerson, Nix, Balentien among candidates
GOODYEAR, Ariz. - Monday's signing of Jonny Gomes would seem to have settled down the competition for the Reds' vacancy in left field."He's been in the mix the whole time, but they just had to get the terms," Reds manager Dusty Baker said on Tuesday. Actually there is still wide open competition because Baker and the Reds don't know everything they want to know yet. They also don't know if the position will be handled by one player or multiple ones in a platoon situation. Gomes, Chris Dickerson, Chris Heisey, Wladimir Balentien, Laynce Nix, Danny Dorn and Josh Anderson were all on Baker's dry-erase board inside his office. "We have tremendous talent up there," Baker said. "We have Dickerson. Gomes is a heck of a hitter. We have Nix, who did a good job for us. Balentien, I heard he had a good winter. Heisey was our [Minor League] player of the year. I don't know Anderson and I heard a little bit about Dorn. We're trying to go north with the best team that can go north." Dickerson, a left-handed hitter, is considered to be one of the best athletes on the team. Gomes, a right-handed hitter, batted .307 vs. lefty pitchers last season as opposed to .244 against right-handers. Although Baker named no early leaders, both seem to be the top two contenders. Prospects and left-field candidates Todd Frazier and Juan Francisco were not mentioned by Baker, for a reason. "Initially, they will have to learn infield plays first," Baker said. "We want to make sure they're fundamentally sound in the infield, and then I will give them time in the outfield too." Center field appears to be Drew Stubbs' job to lose after his stellar six-week play at the end of last season. "I think so. I'm not going to tell him that," Baker said. "Step 1 a lot of times is the easiest step for some guys. He's the kind of kid that knows that." Should Stubbs have any issues in camp, many of the left-field candidates could easily shift to center field. "Stubbs isn't going to play every day of Spring Training," Baker said. "Dickerson is going to play center. It's his best position. I talked to Anderson. It's his best position."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.