06/22/05 — Narron named Reds manager

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Narron named Reds manager

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on June 22, 2005 1:47 PM

On paper, Goldsboro native Jerry Narron's first managerial test with the Cincinnati Reds was a daunting one.

The Reds, losers of seven of 10, were hosting a St. Louis team they trailed by 181/2 games in the National League Central standings.

It's a small step. But, make that 171/2 games.

Narron, named interim manager on Tuesday afternoon after manager Dave Miley and pitching coach Don Gullett were fired, got a clutch, three-run home run from Javier Valentin and a solid start from Brandon Claussen as the Reds won 11-4 in his debut against the defending N.L. champs at the Great American Ball Park.

"We haven't had a lot of success against the Cardinals the last two years," Narron said during a phone interview with the News-Argus on Tuesday night. "They've got good pitching, a good lineup, a good club. Tonight, we had to outscore them."

A key reason for the managerial change was the fact that Cincinnati (28-43) has had to outscore too many teams over the last couple of years. The Reds gave up a club-record 236 homers last season and have allowed a major league-high 106 round-trippers through 71 games in 2005.

Narron obviously hopes the pitching and all facets of the game will improve over the coming weeks.

"I thought coming in we had a better ballclub than we've shown. Everything comes back to pitching, and it needs to be a little better," he said. "I'm honored to have the opportunity to manage the oldest professional franchise in this country. It's an honor to be a part of it."

Rumors of Miley's firing have been swirling since earlier this month when Cincinnati's chief operating officer John Allen met with Miley in Denver during a road swing. Allen hinted changes may occur if no improvement was shown. Since then, Cincinnati went 5-9.

"For the last two or three weeks, it's been somewhat expected. That's sad to say, because Dave Miley is an outstanding guy and Don Gullett is a class guy and outstanding pitching coach," Narron said. "It's a shame to see people you care about lose their job. The bottom line is we weren't getting the job done and a change had to be made."

Narron sees that often cut-throat aspect as, simply, part of the game.

"Being in Major League Baseball for over 20 years, you learn to expect it," he said. "It's just part of the game. It's an ugly side, but it's part of it."

He's obviously facing a challenge to bring the Reds back into the contention this season. They have the second-worst record in the National League and fourth-worst mark in all of baseball. He admits it's nice to have leaders like Ken Griffey, Jr., Sean Casey and Joe Randa on the team, but he's looking for leadership and production top-to-bottom.

"Everyone of them have to be leaders. To me, everyone from the first guy to the last is important," he said. "Still, it's good to have veterans to make my job easier. The thing I have to do, where we are in the standings, is get them up to play every night.

"So far, they have been positive. My biggest thing is getting them to play hard ... the right way ... fundamentally sound. Everything else will take care of itself."

Casey was optimistic about Narron being named to the position.

"He (Miley) gave his heart to this team, but we're excited about Jerry Narron," said the first baseman Casey in an interview Tuesday with the Associated Press. "We have a whole lot of respect for him. He's the kind of guy who can stabilize the ship."

Narron was in his second season as Miley's bench coach, after spending the 2003 season as Grady Little's bench coach in Boston. Narron squashed the rumors that Little may now be brought in to work under him in Cincy.

"I don't know where they got that rumor from, but we aren't going outside the organization to get anyone else at this point," he said.

Cincinnati's minor league pitching coordinator, Vern Rhule, will assume pitching-coach duties. Chris Chambliss remains as the teams' hitting coach, while Mark Berry and Randy Whistler stay on to coach third and first, respectively. Narron and Rhule will both wear "interim" tags, but General Manager Dan O'Brien stated Tuesday they will remain on staff for at least the rest of the '05 season.

The Goldsboro High graduate managed Texas in 2001-02 after spending six years with the Rangers as an assistant under the late, Johnny Oates. He also spent four years as a manager in Baltimore's minor league system.

He feels as if he can continue to draw from the experience of working with Oates.

"Having the opportunity to work with Johnny was the greatest thing I've experienced in this game," he said. "He was an outstanding guy. It was an honor and privilege to work for him."

Also over the last couple of off-seasons, Narron has served with June Hill as the co-head coach of the Rosewood women's basketball team. The rigors and stress of managing a major professional franchise are obviously different from high school hoops, but he demands the same work ethic out of his major leaguers as he did from the Lady Eagles.

"I talked to the players today, and I pretty much told them everything, except 'leave some skin on the floor.' I really enjoyed working over at Rosewood though. It's been a lot of fun.

"The girls might be a little more mature than the guys I'm working with now though," he laughed.

Amongst the stress and competitiveness of his new job, the newly appointed manager and 1974 Goldsboro graduate seems to still have his sense of humor.

Notes: Cincinnati closes out a three-game home stand with St. Louis today at 12:35 p.m., then goes to Cleveland for an interleague series Friday-Sunday. Narron went 134-162 (.453) during his stint in Texas. During his playing career, Narron got his first hit against Jim Palmer, hit his first home run against Dennis Eckersley and was the starting catcher for the New York Yankees the day after legendary catcher Thurmon Munson died in a plane crash.

The Associated Press and information from cincinnatireds.com contributed to this story.