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I am a freelance writer. I've covered the Cincinnati Reds, Bengals and others since 1992. I have a background in sales as well. I've sold consumer electronics, advertising and consumer package goods for companies ranging from the now defunct Circuit City to Procter&Gamble. I have worked as a stats operator for Xavier University, the University of Cincinnati, the College of Mount St. Joe and Colerain High School.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Live Batting Practice Hitter's Nightmare Stubbs and Heisey Taking Next Step

Reds pitchers have been throwing for a week now without a batter in the box.

The position players have now arrived, the next two days the pitchers will pitch live batting practice.

Instead of lobbing the ball like the coaches do in normal batting practice, the pitchers will be working on their pitches at game speed.  It is a tough day for hitters.

"It's not a very good day for the hitters," Dusty Baker said.  "The pitchers are way ahead of the hitters.  It seems like pitchers are throwing a thousand miles an hour.  I remember those days from when I played.  You have to make sure you don't develop bad habits, pulling away, flinching.  You have to have it.  Pitchers can have all the bullpens they want but until they have a live hitter up there, they don't have a window to throw to."

Over the winter Drew Stubbs and Chris Heisey needed things to work on.  Stubbs struck out 205 times to set a club record.  He needs to cut down.  Heisey had problems hitting lefthanded pitchers.  He hit .271 against righthanders but .197 against lefthanders.

Both are young still a work in progress.

"They are young number one and number two, they are underclassmen for awhile.  When you're coming up through the minor leagues your playing against guys your own age.  When you get up here you're facing guys that have made a living doing this for a long time," Baker said.

They are hoping to see the results of their winter work during the spring schedule of games but Baker cautioned about reading into too much into the numbers.

"Spring training can lead to a lot of misconceptions.  Pitchers aren't pitching to a scouting report here, during the regular season they will pitch to your weakness.  That's why some players have a good first year.  No one knows them yet," Baker said.  "My first year I hit .321 then fell of.  We had Hank Aaron, Rico Carty, Ralph Garr and a pitcher told me I was the toughest out because he didn't know me yet.  That's where the adjustment comes in."

Adjustments take time.  It is not like you have a switch to turn on and off.  Players have to shed habits they have developed over the years, many of which were successful when facing lesser talents.

"That's why you see players change organizations and suddenly get it.  Sometimes you give up on a guy then things you've told them click in and they're successful with someone else.  If you do that you're inviting similar problems. It's easy to say get rid of a guy.  Where are you going to find talent like Stubbs?  He wasn't a number one draft choice for nothing."

Heisey was a lower draft choice that has excelled against certain pitchers and not others and it wasn't only lefthanders.

"Heisey had trouble against pitchers that used the other side of the plate.  I know where he likes the ball.  I know there are certain pitchers he will struggle against.  That's my job.  He likes the ball up and in.  Ludwick likes the ball down and away.  It isn't always lefty, righty.  People wonder why a guy hits three home runs one day and isn't in the lineup the next day.  He was having success against a pitcher he should hit."

Heisey and Stubbs are trying to take the next step and overcome their offensive weaknesses but Stubbs has an edge.

"Stubbs is a different animal," Baker said.  "Stubbs is as big a part of our defense as anybody.  He's as good as there is in the league. The Big Red Machine had Cesar Geronimo.  They didn't get Geronimo to hit.  They got Geronimo to play centerfield and play defense.  To win you have to prevent runs as well as score them. You have to catch that ball.  The Big Red Machine had gold at just about every position.  We are getting there.  We already have three in the infield.  Stubbs and Bruce are knocking on the door.  My best team in San Francisco had a lot of Gold, Matt Williams, Robby Thompson, Barry Bonds, Willie McGee and Royce Clayton."

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