Monday, March 29, 2004

Dunn's confident his batting eye is back


Reds notebook

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Adam Dunn has had enough of spring training. "Oh, yeah," he said. "It's about two weeks too long."

[img]
Adam Dunn has an other-worldly 1.353 OPS this spring. As a reference point, Barry Bonds led the majors last year with a 1.278 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
(AP photo)
In Dunn's case, it would be nice to have his stats over the last two weeks count. Dunn went 2-for-4 in the Reds' 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins Sunday. He also made a nice running catch against the wall in left field to save a run.

Dunn has been sizzling over the last two weeks. He's hitting .438 with five home runs and 11 RBI in his last 14 games.

He's hitting .390 for the spring. For stat mavens, his on-base (.500) plus slugging (.853) percentage is an other-worldly 1.353.

"I feel good," he said. "I'm confident. I'm seeing it really well."

Saturday was an example of how well Dunn is seeing the ball. He came to the plate four times. He saw one good pitch to hit and crushed to it right-center for a home run. The other three times up he walked. "I took some pitches I would have swung at last year," Dunn said.

That's helped cut down on his strikeouts. Dunn has struck out 10 times this spring in 41 at-bats - once every 4.1 at-bats. Last year, he struck out 126 times in 381 at-bats - once every 3.0 at-bats.

Spring training is a very small sample, and the at-bats often come against pitchers with no chance of making the big club, but the Reds are convinced Dunn's results down here are no fluke, but rather a result of his work with new hitting coach Chris Chambliss.

"I think he and Chris have clicked," Reds manager Dave Miley said. "Adam has done a good job of taking what Chris has said and put it to use."

LARSON UPDATE: Brandon Larson went through the same routine Sunday as he did Saturday: He took batting practice and ground balls. There's still no date for his return. Larson's missed 18 games with a right turf toe injury.

MAKING A PITCH: The Reds entered Sunday seventh in the National League in pitching so far this spring with a 4.44 ERA.

Even more impressive is the starting pitchers' ERA of 3.89.

No one would rate the staff that high based on talent.

But, for the most part, the Reds have bought into the "pound-the-zone" edict. Translation: Throw strikes or else.

"Strike one is the most important pitch," pitching coach Don Gullett said. "When you pound the zone, the hitter has no choice but to swing the bat or go over on the bench and sit down."

Gullett mentioned Aaron Harang, Jesus Sanchez and Jose Acevedo as pitchers who have been pleasant surprises this spring.

They are a combined 5-1 with a 2.54 ERA this spring.

"Harang has pitched well all spring," Gullett said. "Sanchez has improved a great deal this spring. He's more of a pitcher. He's kept the ball down. Acevedo has matured physically and mentally. He's grown up. He understands the importance of keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate."




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