When Shin-Soo Choo recently approached Reds bench coach Chris Speier for help, manager Dusty Baker wondered why he’d been snubbed.
The answer, he soon found out, was because Choo had respectfully put him on a pedestal.
Choo, who Baker heaped praise on Wednesday before the Reds lost to the Giants 9-5 at Goodyear Ballpark, has been picking the brain of Speier and former Reds star Eric Davis on such topics as base running.
“I said, ‘Why don’t you come to me?’ He said, ‘In Korea we don’t talk to the manager. The manager’s like God,’ ” Baker said. “I said, ‘Man, you ain’t in Korea now.’ “
Choo had hit safely in six of his seven at-bats prior to Wednesday’s contest and already haD three steals this spring. But he’s hoping some side work with Davis, who once stole 80 bases in a season, will reap big rewards as he approaches this season as the team’s leadoff man.
“He’s getting better about leads and jumps, and how to get a jump and how to steal third, and how to steal second. This guy is really, really curious,” Baker said of Choo. “He asks great questions. He wants to be better. And that’s really professional.”
As for Choo’s defensive work, Baker said he’s been happy thus far. The nine-year veteran has yet to make an error this spring.
“Choo’s done a great job out there,” Baker said. “It’s kind of like people are waiting for him to mess up. Everybody messes up.”
Second for Phillips: Although he’s away at the World Baseball Classic, the second spot in the lineup is being held for second baseman Brandon Phillips, giving the veteran a cemented post for the first time in years.
Baker said Phillips has uncanny versatility, and said he’s the only player other than Barry Bonds he’s managed who could effectively handle any spot in the batting order.
“Certain people have certain phobias about where they hit. I didn’t like hitting clean-up,” Baker said. “He can hit anywhere. Wherever I put (Phillips), I’d like to leave him in one spot.”
Hamilton sidelined: Billy Hamilton has been absent from the lineup the last few days, and Baker said it’s because an injury has kept him on the shelf.
“He’s not ready,” Baker said. “A guy who depends on his legs, you don’t want to take a chance on this being a chronic thing all year. (It’s a) hamstring or something. Guys who run that fast are usually gonna have something.”
Hamilton has struggled mightily at the plate through the first month of spring training, getting two hits in 18 at-bats while striking out eight times.
Relief questions: Fielding more questions about Aroldis Chapman’s potential move from the bullpen to the starting rotation, Baker said he’d like to wrap up a final decision on the matter sometime soon. Chapman has worked three times, once against a Double-A roster.
“I’d like to decide soon to get my team together. I don’t like having guys in the middle because that’s a bad situation when you’re in the middle of anything. Then everybody else is an unknown situation,” Baker said. “I don’t think that’s fair to him or us. I’d like to make a decision in the next week or so.”
Speaking of relievers, Baker was asked about J.J. Hoover, who has been on the hill at the end of a few games, including a game with the Brewers on March 9 in which he earned a save.
“You’ve gotta take step one first. We were impressed with him last year. We’ve been impressed this year,” Baker said. “These are slow steps. And we can only have one closer. Not Hoover.”
Extra bases: Cesar Izturis continues to make a case for the utility infield spot. On Wednesday, Izturis’ perfect throw from right field nabbed speedy Andres Torres as the Giants leadoff man tried to stretch a double into a triple. Izturis also hit safely in nine of his first 27 at-bats. … Zack Cozart has now hit safely in four of his last five games after ripping a double to left in the first inning Wednesday. He later scored the game’s first run. … Homer Bailey is scheduled to get the start when the Reds play Seattle in Peoria on Thursday (4:05 p.m. EST).