SARASOTA, Fla. -- If Ken Griffey Jr. is ready to play on opening day, he will be in right field.
Cincinnati Reds manager Jerry Narron said Monday he expects to start Ryan Freel in center because Griffey is still working his way back from a broken left hand. The longtime center fielder was injured in the offseason while wrestling with his kids.
"Right now, that's what our plan is. We would have loved for him to be available opening day to play center field -- it just didn't work out," Narron said.
Griffey, a 10-time Gold Glove winner in center, has taken fly balls and made throws from right field in practice. Narron said he was very cautious about deciding to move the 37-year-old slugger from his customary spot.
"We had to make a decision. This late in the spring we need to get our club out on the field," he said. "I've got to do everything I can do to put our best club out there. My feeling is that with Ryan Freel out there, it gives us strong defense up the middle."
Griffey's agent, Brian Goldberg, said his client had known the Reds' plans.
"Junior understands the team tells us where he should play, and that's the way it should be," Goldberg said.
In other news, the Reds optioned relievers Brad Salmon and Brian Shackelford to Triple-A Louisville. Shackelford has bounced between Cincinnati and the minor leagues the past two seasons.
"All of us have seen what Shackelford can do against left-handers," Narron said. "He needs to do something about right-handers. He needs regular work."
Matt Belisle, who has emerged as the favorite to earn the job as the fifth starter for the Reds, was to pitch in a minor league game on the off day Tuesday to keep on schedule. Bobby Livingston, another starting candidate, also was to pitch in the minor league game.