O'Brien will run all baseball operations

Updated: January 20, 2006, 7:01 PM ET
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- The new owner of the Cincinnati Reds is moving in and rearranging the surroundings.

In his first day running the ballclub, produce magnate Robert Castellini reorganized the front office and promised fans a championship.

He also announced Friday that he was moving his office to Great American Ball Park, where he plans to see how things are done with an eye on more sweeping changes down the line.

"As we build our organization, we'll likely do some other things differently once we get our sleeves rolled up," Castellini said at an introductory news conference also attended by several hundred civic leaders and dignitaries. "I intend to work out of the Reds' offices on a daily basis until I have an insider's understanding of how we work."

Castellini's first move was to change the front office's structure. Chief operating officer John Allen will stay but will focus on the business side of the ballclub. General manager Dan O'Brien will run the baseball side, reporting directly to Castellini.

Under previous owner Carl Lindner, Allen ran the entire operation and reported directly to the owner. Castellini bought control of the team from Lindner in November, a transaction approved Thursday by major league baseball owners.

In many ways, Castellini demonstrated he will be much different from previous owners. He was more comfortable in front of a microphone -- Lindner generally kept to himself -- and showed a broad knowledge of his team, his players and what they've done.

Castellini, who will run the team as its chief executive, said the payroll this season would be $60 million to $65 million, roughly the same as last season. The Reds lost 89 games last year, when they opened with a $60 million payroll that ranked 19th in the majors. The 2006 payroll was set before Castellini got control of the team.

The new owner also showed a fondness for former Reds manager Lou Piniella, who is out of baseball at the moment. Tampa Bay bought out the final year of his contract at the end of last season, and Piniella is doing television work this year.

Castellini met with Piniella and asked him to become a special adviser with the Reds. Castellini said Piniella turned down the offer because he wants to take a year off.

"I wanted Lou to come up here in the worst way as a special adviser," Castellini said. "He promised me if I asked him to, he'd come down to spring training. He's just a terrific guy. He'll not be with us this year."

The Reds have put together five consecutive losing seasons, their longest such streak in 50 years. Castellini said that will change.

"I want to make a promise today to Reds fans wherever you are, a promise from one fan to another: We will bring championship baseball to Cincinnati," he said emphatically.

The five-year losing streak reflects an organization that lost its direction in the late 1990s, unsure whether it was rebuilding or contending. General manager Jim Bowden was fired midway through 2003 -- the first season at Great American Ball Park -- when the lack of pitching and prospects caught up with the team.

The Reds have put more emphasis and money into the farm system since Bowden left, but haven't been able to develop pitching prospects. Last season, the Reds had the NL's top offense -- most runs, doubles and homers in the league -- but their pitching staff finished last.

"We spent a lot more money on scouting in the last two or three years and a lot more on minor league development, but the results are not showing yet," Castellini said. "And I understand that it's supposed to take longer than that, but I'm impatient."

He's also more willing than Lindner to get involved. Like former owner Marge Schott, Castellini plans to have an office in the ballpark, studying how things run. Lindner and other Reds owners preferred to work out of their business offices.

"I'll be here every day," Castellini said. "I will be hands-on. That's a promise."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press