GOODYEAR, AZ. — When he talked about his approach to hitting against the defensive over shift and why he didn’t lay down a bunt once in a while, Ken Griffey Jr. liked to say, “They can’t put a defender in the right field seats.”
It is obvious, from early exhibition returns, that the over shift against left handed power hitters will be rampant this season.
SO HOW WILL THE Cincinnati Reds approach it when teams apply it against Jay Bruce and sometimes against Joey Votto?
“It depends on the game situation a lot,” said manager Bryan Price. “If you are leading off an inning trailing by two runs, a solo home run is great, but you’d rather try to create a bigger inning. If the bunt is sitting right in front of you, you have to take advantage of it.”
Teams nearly always put a deep shift on Jay Bruce, placing an infield defender in short right field. Time and again he grounded right to the guy.
“Jay worked on it trying to exploit it, but he wasn’t terribly successful,” said Price. “You have to be able to utilize what is available to you based on the game situation. For guys who can run a little bit, based on the game situations, it is a necessary option.”
IT SOUNDS EASIER than it really is. Fans have never tried to bunt a 90 miles an hour slider or a fast-dipping sinker or a high-rising fastball.
“It is not at all easy, especially when you are not that type of player,” said Price. “We know our players and have an understanding before they get to the big leagues what they will be able to do. When you are hitting third and hitting home runs and driving in runs, that is kind of what you work on — your power stroke.
“The shift does two things,” Price added. “It defends where players hit the ball most of the time. And it tries to force hitters to switch their stroke, take away their power game and make them hit it the other way. It works against a hitter in two ways, which is why I believe it can be very effective.”
HOMER BAILEY’S FOURTH bullpen session was conducted Sunday morning on the Six Pack, a string of six mounds right next to the clubhouse. As he threw, salsa music blared in the background, something that might have come from Aroldis Chapman’s iPod.
With pitching coach Jeff Pico observing every pitch from right next to him, Bailey threw 49 pitches, the last 29 from the stretch position. And for the first time he mixed in split-fingers and sliders.
“Today was my best day,” he said. “I worked both sides of the plate with the splits and sliders, same thing with the fastballs. Strangely enough, it is probably the best command of the slider I ever had. I used ‘em all up. A slider and split do not put as much stress on my elbow as the fastball does. It is the fastball and curveball that I have to tweak with a little bit.”
AND WHAT IS the next step? The original plan was for him to do five bullpens and then advance to live batting practice to further test the surgically repaired forearm.
“You are asking the wrong person,” he said with a laugh. “They tell me to do stuff and I go do it. I don’t know if I’m ready to face hitters, how’s that? That’s all I can say. In my mind? Yes. Is my elbow ready? That’s a good question. I’m not saying it is not ready. It is just a tough question right now.”
After his throwing session, Bailey, Pico and manager Bryan Price conferred on the mound, seemingly for longer than it took for Bailey to throw 49 pitches. Bailey laughed and said, “I wish I could tell you the talk was all about baseball.”
HIS BULLPEN SESSION went much better than his roping competition Friday and Saturday at the Buckeye Rodeo.
“Didn’t do any good,” he said. “You know how you have bad days? It was like a golfer who usually shoots 80 and puts up a 92. You want to throw your clubs into a lake. It was fun, but a frustrating two days.”
MY BOOK, THE REAL McCOY, will be released on March 16, eight days from now. I will be returning from spring training on Wednesday and will embark on some book-signing appearances. The schedule will appear here in the next couple of days.
The book can be ordered in advance at Amazon.com.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: For some reason, salsa music played all morning on the public address system outside the complex on the practice fields. Said one Reds employee after listening to it all morning, “I’m about to cut my head off.”
Back when Dave Parker played for the Reds, teammate Bret Boone constantly played the group Abba in the clubhouse and finally Parker said, “If you want me to leave, just ask me.”