03/12/2006 2:33 PM ET
Notes: Dent helping Lopez improve
Former All-Star helping current star with mental approach
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com

Bucky Dent said he's not tinkering with how Felipe Lopez physically plays shortstop, just offering tips on the game's mental side. (Al Behrman/AP)
Reds Headlines

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Reds bench coach Bucky Dent was already impressed with shortstop Felipe Lopez even before the young All-Star fielded so much as one groundball this spring.

Last month, Lopez made the late decision to back out of playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. It wasn't because of injury or lack of readiness. The 25-year-old couldn't wait to get on the same page as Dent, who is also his new infield coach.

"I wasn't expecting anything new," Lopez said. "I just wanted to work with him."

How did Dent feel about that?

"I thought it was outstanding," said Dent, who joined manager Jerry Narron's coaching staff in November. "He's been very receptive. We're going to get some work done. I think it's going to be good."

Last season, Lopez committed 17 errors in 140 games at shortstop for a .970 fielding percentage. The Reds are looking for Dent to help Lopez cut down more on the mental mistakes, rather the physical errors.

"It's going to take time," said Dent, a former three-time All-Star shortstop that played from 1973-84. "I told him, 'If I see something, I'll come tell you.' I'll come over and ask, 'What are you thinking there?' It's just communication type things."

The switch-hitting Lopez had a breakout year for Cincinnati in 2005, batting .291 with 23 home runs and 85 RBIs in 148 games. The winner of a Silver Slugger Award at his position, he led all National League shortstops in homers, RBIs and was tied for the top in extra-base hits.

At this time last year in Spring Training, Lopez was battling to become the Reds' everyday shortstop. He wound up losing out to veteran Rich Aurilia, who opened the season the starter. That changed quickly when Aurilia went on the disabled list in May.

Lopez claimed the regular shortstop role and never gave it back. It has made this year's camp a bit easier on the mind.

"I can just relax and gradually get ready," Lopez said. "I'm starting to feel really good at the plate now. Everything is coming back. I don't want to peak at the wrong time. I want to be ready for the season."

Milton throws: Originally scheduled to start vs. the Phillies at Clearwater on Sunday, Eric Milton instead pitched in a simulated game at the Reds' complex as he recovers from a strained right calf.

Working on the mound inside an empty Ed Smith Stadium, Milton threw 54 pitches in four innings against batters Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, Ryan Freel and Jacob Cruz.

No issues were reported, but none were expected because Milton's injury has not affected his throwing. However, he has been unable to run or field his position. The left-hander aggravated the injury Tuesday against Toronto in his first start when backpedaling to catch an errant throw as he backed up home plate. He left after giving up four earned runs and four hits in two-thirds of an inning.

"Hopefully, it's gone," Milton said of the calf soreness. "I haven't felt it in a couple of days. It feels back to normal."

Head trainer Mark Mann said Milton's next test would come on Tuesday when the pitcher does running and agility drills. A pain-free session could clear him to pitch in an exhibition game.

Harang update: Right-hander Aaron Harang, who missed a start Thursday with right shoulder inflammation, has reported no soreness after throwing on the side the past couple of days. Harang, the Reds' projected Opening Day starting pitcher, was cleared to start Tuesday's game against Boston.

Coming up: Left-hander Dave Williams will work his third spring game (second start) when the Reds host the Twins on Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Right-hander Kyle Lohse is Minnesota's scheduled starter.

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