Stubbs out to prove '09 was no fluke

Stubbs out to prove '09 was no fluke

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Based on just over six weeks in the Major Leagues with the Reds last season, Drew Stubbs put himself on the inside track for the regular center fielder's job this spring. It's now his job to lose.

That was some six weeks.

"I don't know many young men that come to the big leagues and do better than they did in the Minor Leagues," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

Stubbs, 25, was the Reds' first-round Draft choice in 2006 and earned his first call up to the Reds on Aug. 19 when Willy Taveras was injured. In only 42 games, Stubbs batted .267 with a .323 on-base percentage from the leadoff spot but also had eight home runs and 17 RBIs.

After his promotion, Stubbs led the team in homers, stolen bases (10) was second in total bases and runs scored. In 107 games at Triple-A Louisville before the call up, he had three homers, 39 RBIs, 46 steals and a .268 average.

"It was huge. I proved to myself that I could play at that level," Stubbs said. "I think it showed me and the organization that I am capable. Coming into the spring for me, I used last season as a springboard into the offseason to get myself ready mentally and physically to play."

Stubbs, who spent his offseason in Austin working out at the University of Texas, with Cardinals All-Star slugger Matt Holliday and Rangers catcher Taylor Teagarden, already had a leg up on the center field spot. The Reds' trade of the disappointing Taveras on Feb. 1 further solidified the move.

But six weeks does not a big league career make and Stubbs knows it. With other talented outfielders in camp, namely a natural center fielder in left fielder Chris Dickerson, it's not a situation written down in pen, yet.

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"I definitely have to go out and win the job," Stubbs said. "Things worked in my favor with the trading away of Willy. But at the same time, I'm looking at it as an open campaign. I need to win the job and earn it. I need to have a good spring in order to do that."

The leadoff situation was a disaster last season when Taveras struggled to get on base or draw walks. With Stubbs a still unproven entity, it will be a question mark heading into the season. One reason for optimism though is the Reds went 28-16 after Stubbs' promotion.

Stubbs, who had three leadoff homers for Cincinnati, also had 15 walks and 49 strikeouts and 51 walks with 104 strikeouts at Louisville. The club likes the power but is working with him to draw more walks and improve his bunting so he can use his speed more.

"We're trying to help with his full-phased game right now," Baker said.

"You didn't know what you were supposed to see because that's the best he's done. But that also shows you what he can do. If you can do it once, you can do it twice and you can do it better -- if you have the aptitude and the will and desire to get better, which I think he does."

Stubbs once said in an interview that he had a rare combination of speed and power. He realizes he's not prototypical leadoff-hitting center fielder but the mold has also changed in recent years. Last year, Curtis Granderson was a 30-homer hitter from the leadoff spot. The Indians' Grady Sizemore hit 33 homers from the top spot two seasons ago.

"I feel like I've worked counts but at the same time, I'm aggressive if I get a good pitch to hit and try to drive it," Stubbs said. "Curtis Granderson and Grady Sizemore can do that also. Those are two great guys to follow. They do a lot of things well. They get the extra base hits and home runs and also get on base and stir up the base paths a little. Seeing their success is something I can try to emulate."

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