Center field for Reds getting interesting

Center field for Reds getting interesting

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Drew Stubbs' less-than-savory numbers heading into Tuesday -- 2-for-20 (.100) with seven strikeouts -- had reporters descending on his locker in the morning asking questions.

It didn't have the Reds brass scurrying with concern, yet.

"No, but he needs to get going here pretty soon," Reds manager Dusty Baker said before the game. "We're about a third of the way through, and a 3-for-4 or 3-for-3 and you're right back there when you don't have many at-bats. I'd like to see him make some more contact because he's struck out a lot, and try a couple of bunts."

Underscoring how quickly Spring Training fortunes can turn, Stubbs enjoyed a 2-for-3 afternoon with a double in the first inning and a two-run triple to right field in the second during a 13-7 Reds win over the D-backs on Tuesday. He was called out on strikes in the fourth and raised his average to .179 in nine games.

"Each game I play and get more at-bats, I feel like I'm moving in the right direction," Stubbs said. "I think the results are a byproduct of the process. As long as the process continues to improve, the results will come."

Leading off the game, Stubbs lined his double near the right-field line and scored on Juan Francisco's RBI single. With the aid of windy conditions, he encountered some luck in the second when the right fielder took a bad route and dove and missed Stubbs' drive. It was ruled a triple and Stubbs scored on a wild pitch.

"I actually had a better swing on the second at-bat," he said.

Despite having played only six solid weeks in the Majors last season after his first promotion, center field was supposed to be Stubbs' job to lose coming into camp. Now, things have gotten much more interesting.

Opportunistically, left field candidate -- and natural center fielder -- Chris Dickerson has given the Reds a new scenario to consider. Dickerson went 4-for-4 with a two-run homer in Monday's 13-5 Reds win over the A's and is batting .429 (9-for-21) this spring. He did not make the trip to Tucson.

A couple of weeks ago, Dickerson irritated his manager by making public comments about his disappointment in not being considered more for center field. He came into camp with a strong chance to be at least the left-handed portion of a left-field platoon with Jonny Gomes.

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To this point, Dickerson has backed up his words on the field.

"This is what I hoped Dickerson would have done," said Baker, who has given him numerous starts in center field. "Instead of talking, just play."

Depending on how the left-field situation sorts out, the Reds could wind up feeling OK about shifting Dickerson to where he is more comfortable. Gomes is the right-handed power hitter for left field, and Laynce Nix or possibly Juan Francisco could bring pop as left-handed hitters.

The 25-year-old Stubbs was the Reds' first-round Draft choice in 2006 and earned his first callup to Cincinnati on Aug. 19 when Willy Taveras was injured.

In 42 games as the leadoff hitter, Stubbs batted .267 with eight home runs, 17 RBIs and a .323 on-base percentage. He realizes that six good weeks late last season does not assure him of anything this spring.

"Me having as few experiences as I have, it was far from a given coming in," Stubbs said. "I think it's good. When it's that way, it keeps you from getting complacent and makes you go out and compete each and every day. It helps make the team stronger, too, when you have guys working hard for a spot."

Before the game, Baker planned to do some investigating about whether Stubbs is normally a slow starter. Stubbs' answer: yes he is.

"I'd say traditionally, yeah," Stubbs said. "The key part is getting to where you feel like you need to be from a comfort standpoint. Ultimately, you're getting prepared for the season. I felt like, from the first couple of games until now, the results haven't shown it, but I'm starting to settle in. I'm starting to have better at-bats, which is the direction I'm trying to go in."

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