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Kearns Discusses His Friend, His Competition For a Job


From 2002 until 2006, Austin Kearns and Adam Dunn were teammates in Cincinnati. The Reds had drafted Kearns and Dunn in the first and second rounds of the 1998 draft. The two became close friends -- as they still are. A story published in June 2002 touted the pair as "the big-bat bookends of the future."

One excerpt from this piece, from Mark Curnutte of The Cincinnati Enquirer:

[Jim] Bowden, now in his 10th season as Reds general manager, said he considers the 1998 one of the high-water marks of his tenure. "The only argument with those two players was which one was going to be better, and I don't think any of us know yet," Bowden said. "They're both going to keep competing and they're both going to be stars for many, many years to come."

Well, here we are, 2009 spring training almost a week away, and Kearns and Dunn have the chance to be reunited -- though under circumstances totally different than they knew in Cincinnati. Kearns, due to earn $8 million this year, is trying to overcome a disappointing season. Dunn, still a free agent, is trying to find the right taker after a disappointingly tepid offseason.

So is Kearns trying to recruit Dunn to DC?

"I mean, I don't feel like I have to give him a pitch," Kearns said. "He knows we could use him, and he's interested, but he's also got some other options... You, we talk quite a bit. You know, just like we always would, but it's different now. He's a free agent now, and he knows he's a wanted man in DC. Other than that, it's nothing out of the ordinary [that we talk about]."

The story with Kearns is not just the influence he can have on a potential teammate, but also the effect one or two new teammates will have on him. In 2008, Kearns was an everyday player, at least when healthy. The problem was, he rarely felt healthy. First there was the right elbow injury, then a DL trip, then surgery. Then he came back and suffered a stress fracture in his left foot. His final numbers: 313 AB, .217 AVG, 7 HR, 32 RBI, .311 OBP, .316 SLG.

Whether diminished performance was attributable to the injuries he tried to quietly endure doesn't really matter at this point. This spring, with the Nats now envisioning a Willingham-Milledge-Dukes outfield, Kearns must fight for a job.

"Well, in Cincinnati we had some situations like that," Kearns said. "It happens all the time whether it's outfield, infield, pitchers, whatever. There's always competition... I think the best advice for any and all is just play -- because things play themselves out. That's the way you look at it. You all go through a time when you take things personal or can hold a grudge, but you have to let things play out. And whatever happens happens."

His body, finally, feels good again. His left foot needed a few weeks after the season to totally recover, but Kearns will report to spring training with none of the ailments that saddled him in 2008.

Kearns has spent this offseason back home in Lexington, Ky. Used to be, he had a few older major leaguers around during the winter, guys like Willie Blair and Kevin Jarvis. But now, those guys are gone, and Kearns has been working out mostly with a group of recent UK grads.

"I used to be the young guy," Kearns said. "Now I'm like the dad."

By Chico Harlan  |  February 6, 2009; 10:23 AM ET
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"This is interesting:

It shows the Nats make the highest profit in MLB. The Nats have shown nice profits every year under the Lerners (reversing a 2005 pre-Lerners loss)."

I thought I read somewhere yesterday that Moorad is buying the Padres for $500-600mil, even in this economy.

Posted by: dclifer97 | February 6, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Is it just me, or does the picture look like an ad for one of those dorky Will Ferrel/John C. Reilly Movies?

Posted by: TimDz | February 6, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I still root for Austin. I know some here look at his bad first half starts and poor overall performance and evaluate him as a limited player, but I prefer to look at his good second half finishes in 06 and 07 and injuries last year and evaluate him as a potentially useful player. His defensive stats (except for last year's elbow influenced throwing problems) have always been very good. He's got good range.

Here's hoping that he can get off to a fast start and sustain it for a full year this year. That would of course be good for him and for the Nats.

Posted by: natbisquit | February 6, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Drafting Kearns and Dunn was the "high water mark" of his career? I didn't need any more evidence but that pretty much sums it up for JimBo.

Posted by: natslifer | February 6, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the piece, Chico (only now I have the Peaches & Herb song playing in my head).

I'm rooting for Kearns, too, natbisquit. Good to hear that he's feeling good (now to replace Peaches & Herb with James Brown - owww!)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 6, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Wait a minute. I thought Ryan Zimmerman was Adam Dunn's BFF on the Nats. Boswell even said yesterday in his chat that Dunn is the key piece in the puzzle for getting Zimmerman signed to a long term contract. So why do we even care about Austin Kearns? I'm so confused...

Posted by: nunof1 | February 6, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

One thing that the Nats will have this Spring is a rich vein of good career stories to be mined by the media. There are at least four comeback stories brewing: Kearns, Wily Mo, Nick Johnson and Shawn Hill and on the far horizon, Dmitri. If only 50% of these work out for the Nats it can be regarded as a huge positive for the team since they contributed nothing last season. Combine this with the hopeful ascent of Dukes, Milledge, Gonzales, Hernandez, Lannan, Zimmermann and Balestar and you will have a very entertaining storyline developing this spring. Last season is in the past, and Spring gives us all a chance for renewal. (This post may be my Pollyanna apogee for 2009.)

Posted by: driley | February 6, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

In other news, how did the Post miss out on this little tidbit? Valentines delivered by Screech? Wow. Just wow. (Or should this be a Bog item?)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 6, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Think about it...if Kearns and Dunn are such good friends would he really lobby for Dunn to join the Nats and possibly take his job? Would Dunn really want to come to the Nats and become the reason for his best friend to ride the pine?

I think Kearns' non-response is very telling.

Posted by: pwilly | February 6, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

pwilly, Kearns plays RF, while Dunn plays only LF and 1B.

Posted by: FloresFan | February 6, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

This made me laugh out loud (from previous post). Glad to see the humor coming back to this place!


"I draw the line when we have to start overpaying groundskeepers."

Posted by: dclifer97 | February 6, 2009 10:27 AM

Posted by: NatsNut | February 6, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Psh. I've been Kearns's mom the entire time. Never waivered in my admiration for the guy even in his injury-induced slump.

I can't wait for him to be healthy and show up all them haters from last year.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 6, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Even at his best, is Kearns a starting RF on a playoff-caliber team? I don't think so - you need more offense out of your corner OFs. I think if he's your starting RF you're a mediocre team at best. If he's your fourth OF, that's a good thing. On the Nats, I don't think you give him the chance to beat out Milledge or Dukes because they have much greater potential for improvement than he does.

Posted by: utec | February 6, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Enough of the REDs- geeze... There's a reason Bowden got fired from the Reds- dude is terrible.

Posted by: richard_cranium | February 6, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Looks like another year of us waiting for Kearns to come out of his shell and show his true potential, he has a fresh start this year and were really looking for big things from him. Ive heard this before. Kearns has never lived up to what he was though to be, he is aging fast and his production has been to slim to pin any future hope on him. Fighting for a spot is what he deserves to be doing maybe it will help him in the long run, if Kearns helps Dunn sign with us I will consider that one of his greatest achivements with the nats.

Posted by: Stu27 | February 6, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Even at his best, is Kearns a starting RF on a playoff-caliber team?

Kearns wouldn't even make the roster of at least half the teams in the league.

Posted by: RickFelt | February 6, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Even at his best, is Kearns a starting RF on a playoff-caliber team? I don't think so - you need more offense out of your corner OFs.


You mean like the Tampa Bay Rays - who had no consistent starter in RF? Or Fukodome for the Cubs? Kearns would have started for them. Werth had a good year for the Phillies last year, but prior to that Kearns compared favorably to him.

Posted by: natbisquit | February 6, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Kearns would have started for Fukodome after they paid 48M for him and he started the season well above .300? Yeah that sounds about right.

Posted by: RickFelt | February 6, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

@Rick Felt

Really? .315/.407/.500 wouldn't make the roster for half the teams? Maybe an OPS+ of 134 would justify your statement? No, no it wouldn't. Please try again.

Even at his best, is Kearns a starting RF on a playoff-caliber team?

Kearns wouldn't even make the roster of at least half the teams in the league.

Posted by: RickFelt | February 6, 2009 12:33 PM

Posted by: Section138 | February 6, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse


Which arbitrary time frame that serves your purpose did you take those numbers from?

I'm seeing, for 2008,

.217 .311 .316

which actually WOULD get you snipped from half the teams in the league. More than half actually. You pulled the numbers from 2002 it looks like. Man he could really hit 7 years ago you're right.

Posted by: RickFelt | February 6, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Imagine what we'd be complaining about today if this happened to us...

Posted by: dclifer97 | February 6, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Yes, but Rickie, your statement was Kearns at his best. Can you admit a mistake?

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 6, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I'll admit skimming over the original comment, my mistake.

Regardless, he should be no better than the 5th OF this year. Even on this team. Pray that Dukes keeps his nose clean.

Posted by: RickFelt | February 6, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse


Not to be cynical or anything, but that looks like what we might have expected to get out of Nick Johnson over the past few years if only he and Kearns hadn't collided going for that fly ball in the short right field of Shea Stadium back in Sept 2006. That collision, unfortunately, will surely be Kearns's defining moment as a National unless he does something absolutely unexpected this coming season.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 6, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse


Signing a top tier FA outfielder will have a direct impact on Kearns' playing time. Dunn has said he wants to stay in the OF. Of course he's also said he wants to sign with a contender so this whole conversation is probably moot.

Posted by: pwilly | February 6, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

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