Austin Kearns (28) Days Until Cincinnati Reds Report to Spring Training


March 15, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Miami Marlins left fielder Austin Kearns (26) against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A decade ago, the nucleus of a promising Cincinnati Reds team was rounding into shape, ready to restart the Big Red Machine.  Centered around hometown kid Ken Griffey, Jr., the lineup also featured a fearsome twosome of youngsters in leftfielder Adam Dunn and rightfielder Austin Kearns. While Dunn put together an excellent, albeit unusual, career before his retirement last month, injuries robbed Kearns of his best seasons.  Nevertheless, the would-be superstar is Number 28 on our Countdown Team as Reds’ pitchers and catchers prepare to report to Spring Training in just, yes, 28 days.  

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Kearns was selected by the Reds out of Lafayette High School in Lexington, KY, in the first round of the 1998 draft, the seventh overall pick. And proceeded to march up the Cincinnati farm system ladder, just a step behind Dunn.  By mid-Aprl of 2002, Kearns was in the Major Leagues, showing good power and a decent glove, but struggling to make contact on a consistent basis.  Through four-plus seasons with the Reds, Kearns never hit above .275 in a season, save for his 435-plate-appearance rookie campaign, when he managed .315.  He topped out at 18 home runs in 2005 and bounced up and down from the minors to the Riverfront during his time in the organization.

On July 13, 2006, the Reds traded Kearns to the Washington Nationals for oldster Royce Clayton and a menagerie of guys who never contributed much, either to the Reds or to their other teams.

Kearns would spend the next eight seasons scattered among the Nats, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees and Miami Marlins. He wrapped up his career with 914 hits, 121 home runs and a slash line of .253/.351/.413, good for an OPS+ of 102.

At 34, and swinging a powerful right-handed bat, you would think that Kearns might still be in the Big Leauges, and maybe he’ll find his way back some day.  For now, though, Kearns stands with the group of players who were supposed to deliver their franchises to new heights but fell short of those expectations.  Bill Almon, Shawn Abner and Ben McDonald can all commiserate, while Reds fans will always reminisce about the bright, sunny spring days that the promise of the early 2000s brought us.

Next: Big Donkey: Former Cincinnati Reds Slugger Adam Dunn Retires