Sunday, February 28, 1999

REDS NOTEBOOK


Young gets lesson on long drives

BY CHRIS HAFT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SARASOTA, Fla. — There was Dmitri Young taking extra fly balls — in left field.

        No, the Reds haven't abandoned their plans to put Young in right field. The sun would have blinded Young had he stationed himself in right, where he has moved to accommodate Greg Vaughn, so he and coaches Denis Menke and Dave Collins had to find a suitable work environment.

        The goal of Young's Saturday tutorial wasn't adjusting to right field, anyway. Collins, with Menke hitting fly balls, was instructing Young in the finer art of breaking for drives hit over his head.

        “I'm training my eye to anticipate where the ball's going to go,” said Young, who's striving to shed his reputation as a subpar defensive player. “I run to a certain spot and then let my hands do the work.”

        Though Young skirted the sun, he couldn't avoid the insistent breeze that added a subtle challenge to each fly. “I had to play the elements, too,” he said.

        PROFESSORS: Should any of the younger Reds question a coach by wondering, “Well, what did he ever do?”, the answer would be, “Plenty.”

        Each workout resembles an old-timers' All-Star game, with Menke, Collins, Ken Griffey Sr., Ron Oester, Bill Doran, Toby Harrah and Buddy Bell on the premises, either as Reds coaches or instructors.

        Combined with Bob Boone, an adviser to General Manag er Jim Bowden, who isn't in uniform but is present nearly every day, this group compiled a career batting average of .270 (13,538-for-50,194) with 912 home runs, 5,530 RBI and 1,209 stolen bases.

        “Because of all the wisdom and teaching skills they have, we feel blessed because we think we not only have a major-league staff in the major leagues but we also have a major-league staff in the minor leagues,” Bowden said. “I think it's really going to boost our player development department.”

        Bowden added that the effect of employing this kind of staff should be felt longterm.

        “You win in the long run with player development, teaching, coaches and leadership,” Bowden said. “We have a very, very strong group of minds working together and that gives you a much better chance to succeed.”

        YOUNG GUN: Though right-hander Scott Williamson probably won't begin the season with Cincinnati, expect management to continue watching him closely.

        Pitching coach Don Gullett said that Williamson, 23, “has impressed me with his ability and tools.” A ninth-round selection in the 1997 draft, Williamson relies on a fastball, slider, curve and two types of changeups. Williamson has started in each of his 36 professional appearances. But in naming him the organization's No. 3 prospect, Baseball America magazine suggested that he might be better suited for relieving.

        All Williamson wants is a shot to make the Reds, though he realizes that beginning the season in Triple-A Indianapolis is more likely. “I can't get hung up on (thinking) if I don't make the team, that's a bad thing,” said Williamson, who struck out 122 batters in 120 innings in Double- and Triple-A last year.

        BELL TOLLS: Bowden said it's too early to determine which level of the minor leagues Rob Bell, the Reds' top pitching prospect, will be placed in to start the season. Since Bell spent last season with the Atlanta Braves' Single-A Danville (Va.) affiliate, he'll likely to go Double-A.

        “He's an impressive-looking pitcher,” Bowden said of Bell, who joined Cincinnati from Atlanta in the Bret Boone trade. “Our scouts did a good job. He has one of the best arms in camp.”

       



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