McCoy: Reds hitting coach says players ‘are on a mission’

Cincinnati led National League in hitting prior to Friday’s game vs. Arizona

Alan Zinter took a lot of hits from the fans and the media last season because the Cincinnati Reds weren’t getting hits.

As the hitting coach/batting instructor for the Reds, isn’t it Zinter’s job show the hitters that the batter’s box is something more than to just stand in?

ExploreReds proving to be 'bunch of ballers'

Never mind that a coach can feed a truckload of information to the hitters, but he can’t hit for them. They have to do it themselves.

So if Zinter was the blame for last season’s putrid .212 team batting average, then he must be the cause for this year’s team ripping the cover off the ball.

The Reds opened a three-game series in Arizona late Friday night leading the National League in hitting, RBI, slugging percentage and they were second in home runs.

After six games, five of them victories, some of the batting averages resemble slow-pitch softball numbers:

Jonathan India .476, Tyler Stephenson .455, Nick Castellanos .435, Mike Moustakas .412, Tucker Barnhart .385, Jesse Winker .375, Nick Senzel .357, Tyler Naquin .316.

The outliers are Eugenio Suarez at .111 and Joey Votto at .200.

And is the affable Zinter pleased after seeing results from his A to Z teachings?

You bet.

“For sure. . .100 percent,” he said. “Obviously the guys were not happy and we were not happy as an organization over what we did last year offensively.

“Even though we made it inti the playoffs last year, this team is capable of much more,” he added. “Everybody took it personal. They all studied, reviewed themselves and evaluated themselves over the offseason.

“We did a lot of stuff to prepare for maximum production,” he said. “This guys are on a mission and they have a chip on their shoulders. It’s nice to see early success in all the work and all the thought that has gone into this.”

So far, so good. . .really good.

After missing several games with flu-like symptoms, Jesse Winker returned to the lineup in left field and Tyler Naquin shifted to center, giving Nick Senzel a day off.

“He is going to be a spark plug rignt away,” said Zinter. “We missed Wink the last few days and it has been good that we didn’t need him, but we’re sure going to count on him, lean on him for a lot of ABs.”

Joey Votto? A work in progress as he revamps his stance and his approach.

“He is coming along, but he isn’t right where he wants to be yet,” said Zinter. “It’s coming. You can see it. He is getting more comfortable. I’m proud of him for sticking to his guns and not going back to trying to see the ball as long as possible.

“He is taking a risk, he is getting after it, he is preparing hard, he is working hard and staying true to his guns.”

And Zinter hopes those blanks he is shooting right now soon turns into live ammunition.

Zinter broke into a broad grin when asked what he likes about rookie second baseman Jonathan India.

“Everything. How’s that? That kid is a really good player,” he said. “Young. Electric. He has so much poise. He is taking what they are giving him. With a runner on third with less than two outs he is perfect in that category.

“It has been just a pleasure seeing his development over a year,” Zinter added. “To see him have a great spring training and take it into the season, to be put into the lineup and be productive. . .he impacts that lineup on both sides of the ball. It is refreshing to see a young kid like that come in and be a big part of the team with such a big impact. He is very, very special.”

The other young player to catch Zinter’s eye is back-up catcher Tyler Stephenson.

“He continuously shows us that he is poised in the box,” said Zinter. “His ability to be off a few games and then step right in, jump on some pitches, have a good approach. That’s not easy for a young kid. A lot of young kids have to play every day to develop. But this kid is farther along than most young hitters. The way he prepares and acts it is almost like he has been around for 12 years.”

So team-wise, what has cause the flip-flop from terrible to terrific.

“Guys last year got into trying to do too much,” said Zinter. “They got away from the ability to have multiple swings. We did hit some home runs last year, but we didn’t give ourselves a chance. We had to be perfect last year. This year there is more of an understanding of not trying to create results rather than just hit the ball correctly, where it’s pitched, and let our natural talent take over. So now you are seeing a variety of hits to all parts of the field.

“To see young guys like Stephenson and India taking balls the other way with the shift on, it’s really, really cool to see. And it’s contagious. And it’s awesome.”

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