Dunn doesn't like The Shift
By Hal McCoy
PITTSBURGH | The Shift, the exaggerated shift, aggravates and frustrates Cincinnati Reds left fielder Adam Dunn.
When he comes to bat, teams routinely move the second baseman 30 feet into short right field and the shortstop moves to the right side of second base — three infield defenders on the right side. The third baseman moves to the shortstop position and is the only infield defender on the left side.
That shift was invented nearly 60 years ago by Cleveland player/manager Lou Boudreau against Ted Williams, who steadfastly refused to bunt up the third-base line.
Dunn, too, is The Reluctant Bunter.
"You think about bunting," he said, "then you think, 'Naw, I'm not giving into that thing (the shift).' Now, I'm just used to it. But it is frustrating when you hit a ball up the middle that should be a base hit or you hit a ball hard between first and second and a guy in the outfield throws you out."
Trying anything to shake things up, manager Jerry Narron batted Dunn in the No. 2 spot Thursday, even though his hits these days are few.
Told his lineup was, uh, interesting, Narron smiled and said, "A little bit. Just trying to mix things up. Dunn gets on base, has a very good on-base percentage (team-high .381) and you know he is going to see a lot of pitches."
When it was mentioned he was batting second because of his on-base average and his discerning eye, Dunn said, "I still try to get on base any way I can. Getting on base is about all that's keeping me up here right now."
If he meant it was what is keeping him in the majors, that's a bit drastic. Yes, he is slump-ridden, 7-for-50 (.140) after Thursday. While he is a threat to homer every at-bat, leading the team with 13, he hasn't homered since May 10.
"I know it is going to get better — it has to get better," he said.
Alas, in the fourth inning Thursday, with the Reds down three runs and the bases loaded with one out, Dunn hit into a double play.
Coffey perks up
Relief pitcher Todd Coffey's numbers continue to be eye-popping, the kind folks like to see in a closer — 2-0, 0.76 ERA, 21 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings.
Narron said before Thursday's game he isn't yet ready to make that appointment, preferring Coffey in the seventh and eighth innings.
"To me, the seventh and eighth innings are so huge and Coffey has been so effective there," said Narron. "That's one reason that it has been tough to put him in the ninth inning and say, 'You're the ninth-inning guy.' "
So, what happened Thursday? David Weathers, usually in the closer's role, pitched the seventh and eighth innings, then Coffey arrived in the ninth to protect a one-run lead, his first save opportunity this year after going 1-for-2 last year.
"Read whatever you want into it, but it was because Coffey pitched a long inning Wednesday and Weathers didn't pitch," said Narron. "We couldn't ask Coffey to pitch two innings today, so we reversed roles. If the same situation comes up (tonight), Coffey will be back pitching two and Weathers the ninth."
Phillips: a day off
Brandon Phillips was not in Thursday's lineup, replaced at second base by Ryan Freel.
"With Freel, with his numbers against right-handers (.173), we put him down in the order (eighth). He is 2-for-4 against Victor Santos (Pittsburgh starter)," Narron said. "But for Brandon Phillips, it is just a day off. Just a mental day off."
During the Reds' previous five games, all defeats, Phillips was 2-for-17 (.118).
Freel responded, going 2-for-3 with an RBI against Santos and had three hits on the day. Phillips entered the game in the seventh as part of a double switch.
Looking for a miracle potion, Narron plans to put Rich Aurilia in the lineup tonight when the Reds open a three-game interleague series in Comerica Park against American League Central leader Detroit.
Where? Narron isn't certain of that, but as he said, "He'll definitely be in there somewhere, probably at third base or designated hitter."
Aurilia is coming off the disabled list after suffering a strained groin. After Thursday's game, infielder Ray Olmedo was optioned to Class AAA Louisville.