Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Big Red Time Machine

Camp Miley: Traditional methods back in style; Club hopes to rekindle glory days by emphasizing organization, basics

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Michael E. Keating photo
SARASOTA, Fla. - The new regime running the Reds baseball operation is trying to go back to what the organization used to be.

"We had the meeting (Monday) night and people talked about the pride there was in the Cincinnati Reds tradition," Sean Casey said. "All the history and the great players. We've gotten away from it for a few years. They're trying to restore it."

"They" are Dave Miley, the new field manager, and Dan O'Brien, the new general manager.

Miley and O'Brien have tinkered with every aspect of spring training. Little things like what they players wear on the field and how they stretch, Big things like the emphasis on fundamentals with new coaches to stress them.

Players say things are vastly different than they were under the Bob Boone/Jim Bowden regime.

"I don't want to bring up the past," catcher Jason LaRue said. "That's over and done with. But this camp is very, very organized. Every thing we do is posted. Things run smoothly. We get done what we have to get done a lot faster. We get in quality work without hanging around for five or 10 minutes waiting to get started."

Whether all the new procedures and practices leads to any more wins won't be known until April.

But Miley is trying to fix what ailed the Reds last year: Bunting, fielding, situational hitting and almost anything else that falls under the `fundamentals category.

"They're addressing the things we need to address," pitcher Chris Reitsma said. "Hopefully, those things will turn losses into wins."

The meeting Casey referred to was for the players and entire staff at the Hyatt here Monday night.

"It was great," Miley said. "Everyone got an opportunity to touch base - the coaches, minor league coaches, front office staff. It worked out very well. It was a nice function."

Miley would not go into details, but the new rules were established . There will be no alcohol in the clubhouse or on the team plane. Wives are not allowed to travel with the team.

Those are on two of the new rules at spring training. Players have to dress in gray T-shirts and red shorts for conditioning. Everyone stretches together. So far there hasn't been any griping.

"Everything I've heard is positive," Miley said. "I haven't heard any moaning about it."

"Those are the team rules," LaRue said. "I think it's great. We should dress alike on the field. It's part of team unity."

"Things are much more team oriented," Casey said. "No one is doing their own thing."

The players like the schedule because no time is wasted. Third base coach Mark Berry spent months formulating the schedules. The workout schedules are posted a day in advance. The Reds stick to the schedule to the minute.

The Reds training staff, under O'Brien's mandate, also took a look at the way they stretch and warm up.

"We've changed from stretching to movement preparation," said Carlo Alvarez, the strength and conditioning. "We warm up the muscle through movement, rather than static stretching. It's a big difference."

The Reds have also added "regeneration," in which players stretch after lifting or conditioning.

"I think that will help us recover faster," Alvarez said. The Reds also brought in coaches to address specific problems.

Hitting coach Chris Chambliss stresses the team approach to hitting. The Reds have been big on hitting home runs and striking out in recent years.

Power is great, but Chambliss stresses situational hitting.

"Get the run over, get him in," Chambliss said. "You want guys to look at the team concept to offense."

Randy Whisler, the first base coach, will work with infielders. The Reds were last in the majors in field percentage.

Whisler worked the last three years in Florida Marlins' minor league system where he worked with Perry Hill, who is considered one of infield gurus.

"He stresses being fundamentally sound," Whisler said. "Get in the best possible position through footwork. Footwork is the key."

Miley also brought in Ed Napolean, a semi-retired coach, to work on bunting and outfield play. "This guy is outstanding," Miley said. "Our bunting is already better after a few days."

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