GOODYEAR, Ariz. — David Bell used a relief pitcher in centre field and a catcher at shortstop, showing a willingness to try unusual strategies in his first spring training as Cincinnati Reds manager.
"This whole camp has been different," starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani said.
Bell, the third generation of a prominent Reds baseball family, has allowed his coaching staff to make significant changes. Pitching coach Derek Johnson, on Milwaukee's staff the previous three seasons, has pitchers playing soccer as part of their conditioning drills instead of running foul-pole to foul-pole.
"You can see them having fun and get their conditioning in," Bell said.
Johnson also has his staff throwing more frequently, though fewer pitches each time.
One of the most notable moves by Bell is allowing reliever Michael Lorenzen to both pitch and play centre field — Lorenzen's position in college — during the same game. Lorenzen has lobbied for the dual role, which is unusual in the major leagues. Lorenzen is getting into condition by chasing fly balls in the outfield during batting practice.
"It's pretty cool they are letting me do this," Lorenzen said.
Kyle Farmer, drafted as a catcher, has played shortstop. Bell intends to use infielder Connor Joe as a catcher, a position Joe hasn't played since college.
Bell has used extreme shifts that employ four outfielders and leave one side of the infield open.
Reds players have welcomed the changes, especially the individually tailored plans for getting players ready.
"They're asking us how we feel and what we need physically to continue to get better," reliever Jared Hughes said. "If guys need a day or if they need extra work, there is a really good system of communication."
After four straight seasons of at least 94 losses, the Reds are ready to consider different approaches.
"Why not try new stuff?" second baseman Scooter Gennett said. "We have the ability to do it. I think Lorenzen should definitely be out there. I think he's nothing but prove that he can hit, that he can throw. He can do it all."
Bell's willingness to try new things also fits with a trend of nontraditional methods.
"The game gets better when people think outside the box because you push the limits of what the game could be," Hughes said. "They are looking at how we can get better and take that extra step. If you get 2 per cent better over 162 games, that's three extra wins and that could be the difference."
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