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Hoover proves perseverance pays off

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds reliever J.J. Hoover is a living, breathing reason why early conclusions shouldn't always be drawn about a player's season. Hoover lost his first five decisions to begin last season 0-5, and he then won his last five.

The first three of Hoover's losses came within the first 10 games of the 2013 season, including two in extra innings. He was not discouraged, however.

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"I liked to look at it that you can only count on tomorrow in baseball," Hoover said. "You can't live in the past, because it's already happened. I just treated each day as a new beginning. Luckily and thankfully, the Reds stuck with me and let me work out of that tough spot."

Hoover finished the season 5-5 with a 2.86 ERA and led the pitching staff with 69 appearances. He walked 26 and struck out 67 in his 66 innings.

How did Hoover get himself out of the early rut? He credited Bryan Price, who was then the team's pitching coach. Price is now the team's manager.

"B.P. definitely helped me," Hoover said. "We just talked about pitch selection, and that's when I scrapped my slider and went to just fastball, curveball and changeup. It was a good mix and simplified some things. I got back to what I was doing in 2012."

Hoover is working to bring his slider back during Spring Training.

"It's a good pitch for me when it's working right," he said. "When it's working right, it's a definite out pitch. Last year, it just got in between my curveball and was kind of slurvy. I decided to scrap it."

The 26-year-old Hoover was among a few Reds relievers that upped their profile in the bullpen when injuries took out Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton. He worked more high-leverage situations in the later innings than during his rookie 2012 season.

Those situations were definitely to Hoover's liking.

"The higher-leverage part of the game makes it a little more exciting and a little more fun to pitch," Hoover said. "What is so cool about our bullpen is that anybody can step into any of those roles and do that job."

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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