Larkin, 40, would prefer to stay with Reds

PITTSBURGH -- Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin wants to
come back for his 20th season rather than retire, and he hopes he can
return with the Reds.

"I want to play next year," Larkin said before the Reds' game
against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Larkin, 40, has played sparingly during the past month and can
become a free agent after this season. His retirement was
considered such a sure thing that the Reds scheduled a night in his
honor. But during the season, Larkin asked the team to cancel the
ceremony because he wasn't sure he wanted to retire.

His preference is to remain with the Reds, the organization that
drafted him in the first round in 1985.

"They have the right of first refusal," he said.

Reds general manager Dan O'Brien said he won't address any free
agent issues until after the season.

Larkin, hitting .290 with seven homers and 43 RBI, wouldn't
rule out playing for another team next year.

"If that's what happens, that's what happens," he said.
"After the season, we'll look at any and all opportunities."

Larkin pinch hit in the sixth inning of Sunday's game and
walked. He's hitless in 16 at-bats since he singled against Houston
on Aug. 31. Larkin last started a game Sept. 18 and had gone six
games without a pinch-hitting appearance until Sunday.

"If I came back, I don't think it would be coming back to a
situation where they wouldn't use me," Larkin said. "If I came
back to play, I think I would be playing with some sense of
regularity. I would have a defined role. What my role is, I don't
know. Before last month, I was hitting .300. I made the All-Star
team. I think I can contribute."

Larkin has struggled with injuries, most recently a strained
oblique muscle.

"I definitely want to play well and not embarrass myself," he
said. "This last month has been tough, but everyone knows the
reason I've been struggling."