Dickerson wants shot at center-field job
Baker prefers versatile defender play left with Gomes
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It's seemed rather clear during Spring Training that center field is Drew Stubbs' job to lose on the Reds.Chris Dickerson wants to know why it can't be his job to win. Dickerson, a natural center fielder, has been mentioned mostly for the left-field job, a position that could very well be a platoon situation with Jonny Gomes. The other day, Dickerson told a reporter that he was disappointed about being overlooked for center field. That opinion hadn't changed as of Saturday morning. "I don't think there's any reason why I shouldn't be able to play center field," Dickerson said. "I've done a great job in center field. Many people don't know that's where I played until I came up. I was one of the top defensive center fielders. Like Stubbs, he was the best defensive outfielder in the system like I was the previous three years. My premiere position was center field. I proved I can play center field at the Major League level and be a good one at that." Reds manager Dusty Baker was rather blunt in his response when asked about Dickerson. "You can be disappointed all you want to. But he allowed Stubbs to get his foot in the door," Baker said. "[It was] via performance and injuries. It happens. Sometimes you have to wait for your next opportunity." Stubbs and Dickerson have had similar starts to their big league careers. Dickerson was called up in August 2008 after the Reds traded Adam Dunn and performed above and beyond what his Minor League track record indicated. He batted .304 with six home runs in 31 games despite not being known for power. After his August 2009 debut following an injury to then-Reds center fielder Willy Taveras, Stubbs slugged eight homers in 180 at-bats over 42 games. He had only three homers in 107 games last season for Triple-A Louisville. But there have also been contrasts. Dickerson had only two home runs in 255 at-bats over 97 games last season. He was better at reaching base, with an on-base percentage of.370 compared to .323 for Stubbs.
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"Reality is reality," Baker said. "[Dickerson] was disappointed he wasn't playing against lefties, but hey man, I've got a guy that's pretty good hitting against lefties in Jonny Gomes."Stubbs is also a former first-round Draft pick and 25 years old. Dickerson will turn 28 in April and was a 16th-round pick in 2003 -- three years before Stubbs was even drafted.
Dickerson has battled lots of injuries, including his missing most of the final five weeks of the 2009 season with a severely sprained left ankle while Stubbs came on. Stubbs has been durable since he turned professional."I told Dick last year, 'The reason I'm platooning you is to try and keep you healthy,' which still didn't work," Baker said. "Nobody said he wasn't in the running. Maybe he feels that. You have to re-establish yourself. You can't discount what Stubbs did that last month. You don't know if he's going to do it again. But you can't discount what he's already done." Dickerson spent the majority of his Minor League career in center field but moved to left field when he replaced Dunn. Stubbs has almost solely played center field in the Majors and Minors. Both are considered strong defensively and have speed to cover a lot of ground. Stubbs had already surpassed Taveras on the depth chart when Taveras was traded on Feb. 1. But Dickerson's name never really came up as part of the center-field conversation. "We discussed it last year, so it's not a new subject," Dickerson said. "[Baker] knows that I'm fortunate enough that I can play all three positions. Also, it's a challenge. [Baker] said he was always a center fielder in his career and got moved to left. Making that adjustment was really tough. He ended up being a Gold Glover in left field, and it's something to look to. He knows I can play center field and that it's my 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.