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Thursday, January 27, 2005
Shortstop 'close' to making decision

Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Barry Larkin's loyalty is nudging him toward retirement.

The All-Star shortstop would like to play another season, but can't commit himself to play for anyone other than his hometown team. He has spent his entire career with the Cincinnati Reds, who rejected his overtures to return for a 20th season.

Larkin said Thursday night that he has turned down offers to start for several other teams because he can't envision himself playing for anyone but the Reds.

"I thought eventually I'd be able to say, yeah, I can do this," Larkin told The Associated Press in a phone interview from his home in Orlando, Fla. "But I'm big on loyalty. I couldn't come to grips with making a 100-percent commitment (to another team)."

Several teams are still interested in Larkin as a reserve, giving him a chance to help develop younger players. But the 40-year-old Larkin sounds as if he's going to retire, and says he's "pretty close" to a final decision.

"I simply haven't made an announcement that I'm not going to play or retire because it's not that pressing of an issue," he said. "If it comes to the point that spring training starts and I'm not playing, then it will be obvious. I want no big fanfare, no major announcement."

Larkin batted .289 in 111 games last season and was chosen for his 12th All-Star team, prompting him to re-evaluate his decision to retire after 2004. He wanted to stay with the Reds for another season, but they decided to turn the position over to younger players.

Larkin has been managing a sports complex in Orlando, working in a development management group, spending time with his family and weighing his options for playing one more season.

He could have been a good fit with the NL champion St. Louis Cardinals, who lost free agent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Boston. Larkin said one American League team offered him a job as a starting second baseman, and two NL teams were interested in him as a starting shortstop.

Larkin told them he couldn't commit because he still sees himself as a Red.

"I just couldn't," he said. "Maybe it cost me a job, but that's just the way I'm wired, how strongly I feel. To my soul, to my core, I just could not make that commitment.

"I can't see myself attempting to play ball with that on my mind and heart."

The Cardinals signed David Eckstein as a free agent from the Angels, and the other starting chances have dried up. Larkin has several open-ended offers for a reserve role.

Larkin also has spoken to friends at ESPN about job possibilities and has talked to other teams about a front office job, something that has been his goal after retirement.

"I've been talking to other organizations about possibly doing something in the front office or doing something with the players on the field," Larkin said. "But until anybody makes a firm offer, I can't say what it is."

His dream is to work in the Reds' front office, something that's not an option for now. Larkin and chief operating officer John Allen clashed over a take-it-or-leave-it contract offer late in the 2003 season, and Larkin was prepared to leave then. The team reconsidered and negotiated a one-year deal for 2004.

Larkin, who was the Reds' captain, still hopes to work in their front office someday. It's unlikely he'll get the chance until there's a change in management.

"I'm OK," he said. "I'm not beat up about it. I don't have any bad feelings. I feel great about the organization."

So great that he can't bring himself to play for another one.