With Taveras hurt, Reds give Stubbs shot

With Taveras hurt, Reds give Stubbs shot

CINCINNATI -- As the Reds plan for next year, center fielder Drew Stubbs has a golden chance to prove whether he belongs in the picture.

The organization's 2006 first-round Draft pick, Stubbs was called up Wednesday to replace regular center fielder Willy Taveras, who went on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained left quadriceps muscle.

"I can be a sparkplug for the lineup, run down some balls in the outfield and get on base, stealing some bases and scoring some runs and mixing in some extra-base hits," Stubbs said. "I will try to go out and do what I've done all year long and hopefully help the team win."

Taveras was hurt in the seventh inning of Tuesday's 8-5 loss to the Giants. He grounded a ball to the pitcher but appeared to hurt himself as he ran out of the batter's box.

It's been a disappointing season all around for Taveras, who was signed as a free agent to a two-year, $6.25 million contract in the offseason to be the Reds' leadoff hitter. He is batting .238 with one homer, 15 RBIs, 25 steals and a .273 on-base percentage that is the lowest of any Major League player this season with at least 400 plate appearances. He has 18 walks, but only four of them came since May 24.

Where Taveras faltered at reaching base and creating havoc, the Reds are looking to see if Stubbs can excel with his bat. The 24-year-old Texas native was batting .268 with three homers, 39 RBIs and a .353 on-base percentage for Louisville. He was the International League leader with 46 stolen bases in 54 attempts.

On top of that, Stubbs was rated in Baseball America as the International League's best defensive outfielder, as having the best arm and as the best baserunner.

"I think my overall approach to the game, offensively, being more consistent," Stubbs said. "I think that's what I was looking for in the beginning. I think I proved I can play at a high level in Louisville and do it well. I've been looking forward to this moment my whole life."

With the Reds out of contention for the postseason, Reds manager Dusty Baker is still trying to split his vision between finishing strong this season and evaluations for 2010.

"Both. We need some victories for today but you also need to cultivate for tomorrow, too," Baker said. "When you're in the heart of the pennant race, you have a different mindset, totally. But you hope that the things you do now will help when you do get into that position with these guys."

Baker wasted no time giving Stubbs exposure in the Majors. He batted him leadoff against deceptive Giants left-hander Barry Zito.

"I don't know exactly how I'm going to use him," Baker said. "But I will give him an opportunity to play, spot him against some very tough guys once I see how his stroke has progressed from when I saw him in the spring. You want to give guys the best chance you think they have to succeed."

Stubbs was preparing to go to sleep for the night when his phone rang at 12:30 a.m. early Wednesday. It was Louisville manager Rick Sweet on the other end.

"At that time of night, it probably means something is happening," Stubbs said. "I don't think it's completely set in yet. It's more euphoria and excitement. I think when the game starts, it will sink in a little more. Everything has been kind of a blur the last few hours."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.