There’s a little Hank Haney in Dusty Baker when the Reds’ manager starts talking about third baseman Todd Frazier.
Like the famous golf coach, Baker refers to concepts like tempo and rhythm regarding last year’s Players Choice as the National League’s Outstanding Rookie. With a .273 average, 26 doubles and 19 homers in 2012, Frazier’s emergence made the loss of veteran Scott Rolen easier to swallow, but Baker said he still asked for extra off-season work from his projected starter.
In the first few days since the team has reconvened, the manager said he’s seen good things, and he’s hoping for even more.
“We’ve got to slow Fraz down a little bit. That’s where the improvement’s gonna come. He’s in a totally different situation than he was last year at this time and we hoped that he would be in this situation,” Baker said. “He’s paid his dues. In a world of giveaways, where we give them a lot, he’s earned it. Which is how you like it.”
While Baker said Frazier needs more patience at the plate, something he expects will come with time, the opposite is necessary on defense. Looking for a better burst on lined shots to third, Baker suggested footwork drills through the off-season.
Frazier knew exactly where to turn, spending the winter working with his former track coach at Toms River (N.J.) South High School, Ed Heffernan.
“Basically, the first step to the backhand and the first step to the forehand, that was basically what I worked on. Knowing that I’d be playing the whole year, that was a big thing. I had to prepare for that, so that’s what I did,” Frazier said.
“You never know when that play is coming toward you because it’s all about reaction. It’s just letting your feet do the work.”
Frazier’s five errors last year at third were half as many as those credited to Rolen in roughly the same number of games. Still, Baker is looking for more, especially on a team that’s hoping for a deeper run in the postseason.
“We take pride on defense here and he’s worked hard at it. We’re gonna give him an opportunity to play,” Baker said. “He’s a strong man and he brings some good things to the table, and some good things to the team. He’s not scared or intimidated by anybody.”
As for working for months on his first step, Frazier said it’s not the type of workout he envisioned as a young prospect.
“You think you’re just gonna get bigger and stronger. I did that, too,” he said. “But these things are vital.”
Quite the card: Tuesday was the day all Reds had to sign waivers with Topps for appearing on playing cards, and representatives from the company were gathering signatures, distributing checks, and showing off some of the 2013 series.
A number of players floated around the clubhouse table where cards were scattered and accompanied by a bucket of Bazooka gum.
Baker said he still remembers the gravity of first appearing on a baseball card, something he did back in 1971 along with Tom Paciorek and Don Baylor as part of the Rookie Stars set. That card still sells online for more than $75.
“It just kind of means you’ve arrived,” Baker said of first seeing his face on a card. “As a kid you keep the good players in the box, and you put the bad players on your spokes.”
Another lefty: Baker talked highly of Manny Parra, who the Reds added for depth earlier this month. Parra has had a roller-coaster career, including a perfect game back in 2007 at Triple-A Nashville, a major league-leading 17 wild pitches in 2010, then elbow problems that kept him out of action for all of 2011.
In terms of left-handed relievers, the Reds already have Sean Marshall, but Baker said he’s happy to have another capable southpaw and he expects Parra to help.
“I’ll take three if they’ve go t’em. You don’t have to just wait for the one situation to use your lefty,” Baker said. “You can use one early and save one for later. That’s why I like to break up my left-handers in the lineup.”
Parra threw some live BP on Tuesday and had a crowd gathered to see it, but truth be told it was only situational. Parra relieved Johnny Cueto, who threw some pitches to a group including Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick. There weren’t many highlights from the session, aside from one of Cueto’s changeups fooling Ludwick. The outfielder yelled out to Cueto: “Bueno.”
Boone for business: The ESPN crews descended on Reds camp Tuesday morning, and lead baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian was among those milling around the clubhouse.
Another member of the Baseball Tonight team also made the rounds as former Red Aaron Boone was shaking hands with a number of media members, as well as some of the current players. Boone played seven years for the Reds, and hit the final homer in the history of Riverfront Stadium. He lives in nearby Scottsdale.