12/04/2006 10:24 AM ET
Freel: Speed keys versatility
Cincinnati utilityman Ryan Freel credits speed for his big-league success. (Dave Einsel/AP)
I'm known mostly for my versatility, but my speed is what gives me the ability to play different positions and bat at the top of the lineup.
If I did not have good speed, I probably would not be where I am at today. Speed has been a big key to my success as has my ability to play different positions. Without those assets, I would probably be at home trying to figure it out.
Stolen bases are just part of it. I don't set any goals for base stealing because I don't know how many opportunities I'll get as a utility player. It's hard to steal a base from the bench, so I just try to get as many as I can get. I just let it roll as it rolls.
Defensively, my speed helps me play all over the field. You want to be pretty quick to run down balls when you play the outfield, and speed and quickness are big assets when you play second, short or third, too.
This past season, I batted leadoff all year long. Take away my speed, and I would probably be hitting in the seven- or eight-hole. For the most part, my on-base percentage has been OK. I was able to get a few walks here and there, but without the speed I would probably be lower in the order. This game is all about inches, and speed can make a big difference over the course of nine innings.
The last few injuries I've suffered have been to my lower body. That hurts me more than most other players. A first baseman with a pulled hamstring might be able to get away with it, but I rely more on my legs than most others.
I work really hard in the offseason, and I made a lot of changes to help get myself strong. It's something I have to stay on top of.
I started my big-league career with Toronto. My style of play fits better over here in the National League, though. I'd have liked to have played in the NL when I was first coming up. There's more strategy involved, like double switching and hitting and running -- things that necessitate having players like myself.
With the Reds, I feel like I've been in the right place at the right time.
The versatile Ryan Freel set career highs with 30 doubles and eight home runs this past season. He amassed 37 stolen bases, matching his 2004 total and eclipsing his 2005 output by one.