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Lutz showing strides off bench as pinch-hitter

Lutz showing strides off bench as pinch-hitter

CINCINNATI -- Learning the nuances of pinch-hitting is difficult for many hitters, but it can be compounded for rookies, like Reds outfielder Donald Lutz. Until his first big league callup on April 29, Lutz had not played above Double-A.

In Cincinnati's last three games, Lutz has two hits as a pinch-hitter. He hit a two-run single in the sixth inning of Sunday's 5-1 win against the Brewers. During Monday's 4-1 victory against the Pirates, Lutz batted for pitcher Mike Leake in the seventh inning and hit a one-out single through the right side. He lined out to center field in the eighth inning of Tuesday's 4-0 loss.

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Before those hits, Lutz was 3-for-18 as a pinch-hitter and in a 2-for-16 stretch overall.

"It's hard. I've never come off of the bench like that before this season," Lutz said Tuesday. "It helped me a lot to talk to the other guys that have some experience with it. They told me the biggest thing is -- obviously -- is being ready and get in the cage and get loose and stuff like that. The mental part also plays a big role. You may get only one at-bat for two, three or four days. It's hard to think about it the whole time. It's not easy, but I'm getting used to it."

Lutz's two hits raised his batting average from .231 to .259. Often, pinch-hitters are instructed to go up there swinging early and often -- especially because they can expect more fastballs from late-inning relievers. That strategy hasn't benefited Lutz, however.

"That's how I was in the beginning," Lutz said. "You can run into one once in a while. But obviously that didn't work out for me. I'm trying to be less aggressive. If you don't play every day, it's not like you can take your regular swing up there. I've turned it down a notch and it's making it a little easier."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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