Dr. Dusty Baker has discovered a new disease. He calls it homerunitis.
“It’s not deadly,” the Reds manager said, “but it’ll sure make your life miserable when you get it.”
Baker brought up the ailment when he was asked about shortstop Zack Cozart, who has been swinging a hot bat because he’s hitting to the opposite field. Baker said hitters have a tendency to get pull-happy, meaning they’re always hitting to the side on which they bat, because it’s easier to hit home runs that way.
In his last 23 games, Cozart has raised his average from .206 to .250 by spreading the hits around. He homered to left field in Monday’s 4-1 victory over the Pirates, but he’s hit only three home runs in May and June after hitting four in April.
“He’s been swinging better,” Baker said. “He’s been more aggressive, which is what you like to see. We definitely need him, especially when he’s batting at the top of the order as a double-leadoff man. Down in the order, you need him to roll the lineup over and drive in some runs. So he’s equally important no matter where he’s hitting.”
Cozart batted second on Tuesday in the second game of the series at Great American Ball Park after hitting seventh on Monday.
Arroyo on mound: Bronson Arroyo makes the 248th start of his Reds career tonight. He’s made more starts since 2006, his first season with the team, than anyone in baseball. Dan Haren had also made 247 starts through Monday.
Arroyo said Tuesday he was irritated when he was traded to Cincinnati because he doesn’t like change, but he turned out to be a good fit for a young team.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but we had a bunch of guys coming up that were very talented,” he said. “And I got to be somewhat the glue that put this whole puzzle together and kept it together.”
Bullpen responds: Reds relievers had a rough stretch earlier this month, but they’ve turned it around in the last seven games, posting a 0.90 ERA in 20 innings. In the last four games, prior to Tuesday, they hadn’t allowed an earned runs in 9 1/3 innings.
It’s the first time this season the bullpen hasn’t given up a run four games in a row. The bullpen has a bit of a different look now, too, with Tony Cingrani moving from starter to reliever and Curtis Partch earning an extended look with Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall still on the disabled list.
“In our present state, (the success) is a temporary thing that you hope turns permanent,” Baker said. “You’ve got new bodies and new personnel doing new things. It’s a bit of an experiment. We can’t win without them, that’s for sure, and it’s a big downer when we give (games) away.”
Big picture: The Reds’ 43-28 record through Monday put them on pace for 98 wins. St. Louis (45-25) is on pace for 104 wins.
No team in baseball had more wins than the Cardinals and Reds going into Tuesday’s action.
Heisey update: Left fielder Chris Heisey went 2-for-4 Monday in his first rehab game with Triple-A Louisville in a 16-3 loss at Durham (N.C.). He’s recovering from a strained right hamstring.
Hamilton rising: The Reds’ top minor league prospect, Billy Hamilton, has raised his average from .189 on May 6 to .252. He’s hit safely in 30 of his last 38 games with Louisville and is hitting .309 in that stretch.