Encarnacion to change hitting approach

Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, owner of a new two-year, $7.6 million contract that avoided arbitration, made his camp debut on Wednesday. In a good mood for obvious reasons, Encarnacion said he committed in the off-season to returning to his old approach of hitting.

“I want to try to stay more to the middle. Last year, I tried to pull too many balls and hit more homers,” Encarnacion said. “That’s why my average went down. I will be more consistent with my hitter. I know I can do it. I’ve done it before. I know I can hit better than that and I just have to keep working.

“You can’t go to the plate hitting like crazy. You have to go up with some plan. That’s what makes you a better hitter.”

One of the better clutch run producers before 2008, the 26-year-old Encarnacion  batted .251 with a career-high 26 home runs but only 68 RBIs in 146 games.

During his playing career, Reds manager Dusty Baker said he made similar mistakes.

“Sometimes it happens at that point of your career. It happened to me. It’s a disease – I call it home run-itis,” Baker said. “You start liking the trot. What happens is you end up hitting lower, less RBIs and have just as many homers. I got a letter from Joe Black, I’ll never forget it. I still have the letter. He told me to ‘remember you’re a hitter, not a slugger.”

Other notes from Wednesday:

Jerry Hairston Jr. worked out with the outfielders when workouts began on Tuesday. Baker said not to read too much into that. Hairston is also considered a backup shortstop option to Alex Gonzalez.

“It was day one. You have to start somewhere,” Baker said.

Hairston told me he will play shortstop for Team Mexico at the World Baseball Classic. His mother is Mexican.

Live BP:

It’s one of those days of the year when pitchers have total dominance over hitters — the Reds went through live batting practice. Pitchers faced hitters and threw at game speed. On one field, a group of hitters faced Aaron Harang, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto in succession.

Volquez and Cueto throw in the mid 90s with some nasty breaking stuff.

“I don’t even want to get in there,” joked Norris Hopper as Volquez pitched.

The only hitter to really connect on a pitch was Daryle Ward, who cleared the right field fence against Cueto. On another field, Homer Bailey, Arthur Rhodes and Mike Lincoln also faced hitters.

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