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Inside Baseball

May 26, 2003
May 26, 2003

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May 26, 2003

Tennis
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Inside Baseball

Home Run Derby
With three players hammering away, the Reds hang in the NL
Central race by trying to outslug the opposition

This is an article from the May 26, 2003 issue Original Layout

Last Saturday felt like Christmas morning to Reds leftfielder
Adam Dunn and third baseman Aaron Boone: A package of Louisville
Sluggers had arrived for them in the visitor's clubhouse at
Miller Park. Both hitters were eagerly awaiting the shipment
after Boone, who had been using Dunn's bats the past three weeks,
shattered the last one in a game the night before. Their giddy
excitement dried up, however, when they realized that the new
bats were shorter than Dunn's usual lumber. Said Dunn, "That's
like asking a barber to cut with the wrong pair of scissors."

It didn't matter. Later that afternoon, Dunn belted his major
league-leading 16th home run and Boone connected for his 11th.
The next day Boone hit two more dingers, including a two-run
blast in the 10th inning, sealing a 6-3 victory over the Brewers.
It was the quintessential win for surprising Cincinnati (22-22
through Sunday), which has relied on the long ball like no other
team in the majors: Nearly half of the Reds' runs (48.6%) have
come off of home runs.

Of Cincinnati's 69 homers, which tied Texas for most in the
majors and were 11 more than any other National League team, the
trio of Dunn, Boone (13) and outfielder Austin Kearns (13) had
combined for 42, the most by any threesome this year. Dunn and
Kearns, both 23, rose through the Reds' system together and
advise each other on their hitting. After Dunn had just four hits
in his first eight games this year, Kearns recommended that he
revert to a more wide-open stance that Dunn had used to hit 19
homers in 66 games as a rookie in 2001. Dunn has stuck with that
stance since.

At 6'2" and 200 pounds, with 68 career home runs in his five-plus
seasons, Boone has been the biggest surprise. After hitting a
career-high 26 last year, he credits an extensive off-season
training regimen for his added strength. "I haven't ever felt
this healthy and strong," says Boone.

The Reds' startling display of power leads one to ask: Is it the
red-hot lineup or the new stadium? With 36 home runs at Great
American Ball Park, which has a short rightfield porch and an
outfield jet stream that carries balls hit to left center,
Cincinnati was averaging 1.64 per game compared with 1.05 last
year at Cinergy Field. "It's a nice park to hit in," says Boone,
"but people need to start recognizing that we have a legitimate
lineup."

Befitting their swing-for-the-fences ways, the Reds had also
struck out more than any other team in the majors (368), led by
Dunn's 52 K's (tied for the major league lead). Manager Bob
Boone, though, won't let that bother him, not with this group.
"We're a home run-hitting team," says Boone, Aaron's father. "You
can't train them not to strike out. Players who come up prone to
striking out are always going to strike out. You can't change who
we are."

Carl Everett's Turnaround

He's Been Cool,
While His Bat Is Hot

When he was battling for a starting job in spring training,
combustible Rangers outfielder Carl Everett gave an indication
that he hadn't changed his ways when he told the media, "Anyone
who thinks I can't play this game is an idiot."

But since becoming the regular leftfielder after Kevin Mench went
down with a strained left oblique muscle in March, Everett, an
All-Star in 2000, has looked like a new man under first-year
manager Buck Showalter. At week's end Everett, who hit .267 with
16 homers last year, led the American League in slugging
percentage (.694) while hitting .333 with 13 home runs and 40
RBIs--and he hadn't blown his top once.

Being healthy (leg injuries slowed him in the past two years) is
one reason for Everett's turnaround; another is a technical
adjustment he made at the plate. Early this season Texas hitting
coach Rudy Jaramillo noticed that Everett, in an attempt to get
around on fastballs, was starting his swing too early, which made
him vulnerable to off-speed pitches. To help the timing of his
swing, Everett wags his bat back and forth, a motion synchronized
with another routine in which he taps his front toe in
metronome-like fashion. Just as the pitcher starts his delivery,
Everett gives a slight jerk of his head toward the pitcher. This
sequence has mostly helped the switch-hitting Everett against
lefties. His batting average from the right side has improved
from .206 combined over the last two seasons to .314 this year.

THREE COLOR PHOTOS: TOM DIPACE (DUNN, BOONE) The trio of (clockwise from far left) Dunn, Kearns and Boone had 42 of the Reds' 69 homers through Sunday.

Four-bag Frenzy

More home runs had been hit in games involving the Reds than any
other team in the majors through Sunday. By contrast, the Dodgers
had the fewest homers hit in their games (56). Here are the
leaders.

TEAM HRS HIT HRS ALLOWED TOTAL

Reds 69 60 129
Rangers 69 51 120
Blue Jays 51 62 113
Brewers 51 61 112
Cardinals 50 55 105