CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds have fired general manager Wayne Krivsky and replaced him with former St. Louis GM Walt Jocketty.

The Reds are off to their worst start in five years. The firing wasn't as much a surprise as the timing.

Krivsky knew his job was in jeopardy when owner Bob Castellini hired Jocketty as a special consultant in January. The two were friends from Castellini's days in the Cardinals' ownership group.

When the Reds got off to a 9-12 start, Castellini made a switch that was expected at some point. Krivsky, who was hired before the 2006 season, was in the final year of his contract.

Again, the Reds are looking for direction.

Jocketty is the team's fourth general manager in six years, an instability that has prevented them from setting a course. The Reds also have been through two owners, four managers and an interim manager during that span.

The uncertainty at the top has contributed to Cincinnati's worst slump in more than a half-century. The Reds haven't had a winning record since 2000, when Ken Griffey Jr. joined the team.

Jocketty's job will be to set a course for the impatient owner, who has increased the payroll and expanded the front office during his two years in charge but hasn't been able to produce a winner.

Jocketty left the Cardinals last year, only one year removed from winning the World Series. Front-office friction left him out of a job even though he'd helped the Cardinals get to the playoffs seven times in 12 seasons.

The Reds haven't been since 1995.

One of Castellini's first major decisions as owner was to fire GM Dan O'Brien and replace him with Krivsky, who had helped the small-market Minnesota Twins prosper despite a limited payroll.

Cincinnati's payroll increased from $69 million last year to $74.3 million on opening day, 18th in the majors. The team's struggles on the field underscored the organization's lack of direction.

Krivsky showed a fondness for signing older pitchers and making a flurry of trades. One of his most expensive decisions was giving left-handed reliever Mike Stanton a two-year, $5.5 million deal, far more than anyone else was offering. The tight-budget Reds got rid of him during spring training even though he was still owed $3.5 million.

Krivsky also pulled off an eight-player deal with Washington in 2006 that sent outfielder Austin Kearns and shortstop Felipe Lopez to the Nationals for relievers Gary Majewski and Bill Bray. The deal hasn't made much of an impact for either team.

The Reds hired Dusty Baker as manager in the offseason, hoping to stabilize that position.

Jocketty will have a couple of major decisions in the coming months. Griffey is in the final year of his contract — there's a club option for next year at $16.5 million — and Adam Dunn is making $13 million in the last year of his deal.