Mike Greenwell Tries for Comeback

Thursday, February 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — Deion Sanders has some company in his baseball comeback: former Boston Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell.

While Sanders tries to make it back to the majors for the first time since 1997, Greenwell has decided to try to become a player-coach for the Cincinnati Reds' Double-A team in Chattanooga.

Greenwell, 37, hit .303 from 1985-96 with the Red Sox. He took a job as batting coach for Chattanooga in the offseason, but has started taking batting practice with the Reds.

``I think he'd like to try and make a comeback,'' general manager Jim Bowden said.

The Reds are open to the idea of letting Greenwell coach and play for Chattanooga. He's not under consideration for the major league club — not now, anyway.

``You never know what it can lead to down the road,'' Bowden said. ``You always need left-handed pinch-hitters. But he hasn't played in three years, and the last time he played was in Japan.''

Manager Bob Boone doesn't mind Greenwell working out with his team.

``We have a lot of balls and bats,'' Boone said. ``I'll let anybody show me anything.''

Sanders, 33, hasn't played in the majors since 1997, when he left the Reds to concentrate on football fulltime. He came to spring training last year, hit .200 in 25 games for Triple-A Louisville, then went home and later refused a callup when the Reds needed an outfielder.

Sanders, a cornerback for the Washington Redskins, convinced the Reds to give him another minor league contract. He can be called up May 1 and intends to be back in the majors as soon as possible.

Bowden declined to say whether the Reds' contract with Sanders includes provisions that would allow him to leave Cincinnati when NFL players must report.

``I have a cause ... a chapter of my life that remains to be closed,'' Sanders said. ``I feel like I'm preaching to you. It's exciting. I love the challenge.''

Sanders says he has recovered from leg injuries that slowed him last spring training.

``I haven't felt like this in probably five years,'' he said. ``I've needed off-season surgery for the last three or four years. But I feel fresh.''

Bowden and the Reds are waiting to be persuaded.

``It's a difficult task,'' Bowden said. ``He's not a focus of spring training for us. Our focus is trying to get players ready for opening day for the team that can compete for us.

``Deion has to have explosive speed so he can steal a base at any time. That's the No. 1 tool he has to have. And he has to be able to swing the bat.''

Notes: The Reds signed RH Brian Reith, INF Brandon Larson, OF Jackson Melian and OF Brady Clark to one-year contracts. ... The Reds have 11 unsigned players in camp, including Aaron Boone, Rob Bell and Jason LaRue. The club can renew their contracts next month if they don't reach an agreement.