That com­bi­na­tion has made ex-horn Drew Stubbs a ma­jor hit in Cincin­nati

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - CEDRIC GOLDEN

Play­ing in the ma­jor leagues has been a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for Cincin­nati Reds cen­ter fielder Drew Stubbs.

It’s not like col­lege, where he had to jug­gle classes at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas with week­end base­ball games and the oc­ca­sional midweek con­test. No, this is a job, but Stubbs is en­joy­ing his first full sea­son in MLB.

“The mi­nors was a real change from col­lege be­cause we play ev­ery day,’’ he said. “Late in the sea­son, it takes a toll on your body and your mind. It was a real grind for sure. Each level you climb, the com­pe­ti­tion gets bet­ter and bet­ter and once you get to this stage, you’re fac­ing the best night in and night out.”

Stubbs has the po­ten­tial to be a great pro, and he knows it will take more than power hit­ting to get there. Any­one who fol­lows UT base­ball knows Stubbs made his rep­u­ta­tion with home runs.

He beat Stan­ford with a gamewin­ning, in­side-the-park tater in his ju­nior year, then fol­lowed that later in the sea­son with a mam­moth, two-run blast that cleared the old score­board at Disch-Falk Field to beat Ok­la­homa.

The ball al­ways jumped off his bat, and the old say­ing rang true in re­gard to his power: when Stubbs hit the ball, it stayed hit.

So it comes as no sur­prise that Stubbs’ 31 ca­reer homers rank sixth in Longhorns his­tory. His pow­er­ful stroke and an­te­lope stride in cen­ter field de­fined his col­lege ca­reer, and those at­tributes led to him pock­et­ing a $2 mil­lion sign­ing bonus as the eighth over­all pick of the 2006 MLB draft by the Reds.

These days you can find him pa­trolling cen­ter field for Cincin­nati, which leads the Na­tional League Cen­tral by a game over St. Louis. Stubbs hasn’t hit for av­er­age this year — .235 isn’t go­ing to evoke com­par­isons to his pre­de­ces­sor, Ken Grif­fey Jr. — but the power has shown up at times, in­clud­ing a spec­tac­u­lar hol­i­day out­ing that we will hit upon in a bit.

The 11 homers are re­spectable, given the low bat­ting av­er­age, but

Con­tin­ued from C1 Stubbs’ power num­bers aren’t the most im­por­tant as­pect of his ma­jor-league skill set. It’s his legs. Stubbs’ ca­reer will in­clude some home runs, but he could make his biggest im­pact on the basepa­ths. At Texas, the homers over­shad­owed the blaz­ing speed that pro­duced 86 ca­reer stolen bases, which rank fourth all-time be­hind Calvin Mur­ray, Wylie Camp­bell and Spike Owen.

Now that he’s in the big leagues, Stubbs knows that ev­ery base he swipes helps keep him in the lineup. He’s stolen 17 bases in 20 at­tempts through the All-Star break, which ranks sev­enth in the NL, and while he would take 50 homers over 50 steals any day of the week, Stubbs un­der­stands his role as a young player on a team with plenty of of­fen­sive pop.

“The coaches al­ways want to keep it in the back of my mind that I have other weapons I can use,” he said. “I know that I can be a small­ball type of player with power as well.”

The power was on dis­play on a windy July 4 at Wrigley Field, where Stubbs hit three homers in a 13-4 vic­tory over the Cubs.

“That never hap­pened to me on any level since I’ve been play­ing,’’ he said. “I only have a hand­ful of twohomer games in my ca­reer so to be hon­est, af­ter I hit that first homer in my first at-bat, I never thought about it. I was just try­ing to make good con­tact.”

Reds man­ager Dusty Baker un­loaded 2009 starter Wily Tavares last sea­son to give Stubbs a chance to prove he be­longed, and he re­sponded by hit­ting .267 with eight homers and 10 stolen bases in 42 games. His 2010 sea­son hasn’t been with­out its strug­gles, but Stubbs has the con­fi­dence of his man­ager.

“His up­side is amaz­ing,’’ Baker told re­porters ear­lier this month. “He’s just wait­ing too long. He’s a lit­tle bit de­fen­sive. He’s wait­ing to see if it’s a ball and a strike, and you don’t have that kind of time.”

And on those days when the young­ster isn’t mak­ing con­tact — his 90 strike­outs in 293 at-bats are tied for eighth-most in the ma­jors — Reds hit­ting coach Billy Hatcher is work­ing with Stubbs on bunting more, an­other way to use his speed. Since he’s moved from hit­ting lead­off to the No. 7 hole, which fol­lowed a tough start to the sea­son dur­ing which he was bat­ting .174 through Drew Stubbs, con­nect­ing for a home run on June 9 against San Fran­cisco, has emerged from an early sea­son slump since mov­ing into the Cincin­nati Reds’ lead­off spot. May 4, Stubbs has raised his av­er­age 61 points. That’s an en­cour­ag­ing sign look­ing ahead to the sec­ond half.

At this pace, Stubbs will fin­ish the sea­son with 24 homers, 77 RBIs and 34 stolen bases, not Grif­fey num­bers but solid to­tals that will keep him in a big-league uni­form for many years.

Paul Beaty

Drew Stubbs was all smiles on July 4 af­ter fir­ing up the Reds by crack­ing three home runs in a win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Stubbs is hit­ting just .235 at the All-Star break, but his speed has trans­lated into 17 steals in 20 at­tempts.

jay jan­ner

Stubbs’ 31 ca­reer home runs rank sixth on the Texas Longhorns list. He was the eighth over­all pick in the 2008 draft.

Al Behrman

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