Reds’ Duvall still struggling, but encouraged by recent form at plate

Overshadowed in Reds Country by the hand-wringing about Billy Hamilton’s struggles at the plate has been Adam Duvall’s ongoing slump.

While the Cincinnati left fielder went into Saturday’s game leading the team with five home runs and second behind third baseman Eugenio Suarez with 16 runs batted in, he also was hitting a meager .167.

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That’s on the heels of his bleak second half of last season, when he hit .212 with 11 of his 31 home runs and 38 of his 99 RBIs.

“He used to do a lot of damage on two-strike breaking balls,” manager Jim Riggleman said before Saturday’s game. “I think that got the league’s attention and they made an adjustment. Now it’s up to him to make an adjustment to them. He’s totally not there yet.”

Duvall took encouragement from lining a 1-1 pitch to the opposite field and into the netting above the Reds bullpen down the right field line to give Cincinnati a 4-0 lead in the first inning of Friday’s 4-1 win. That was his only hit in 12 at bats over the first four games of the home stand.

“It felt good to barrel the ball,” the 2016 National League All-Star said. “I haven’t been able to drive the ball the other way, so that’s a good sign.

“I’m kind of feeling things,” he added. “I’m starting to feel the ball off the bat a little bit.”

Another good sign for Duvall is he’s at least making contact. He’s on pace to strike out 152 times this season, which would be the lowest total of his three full seasons in Cincinnati.

Duvall hasn’t been able to put his finger on precisely what has been his problem, but he knows he has to guard against trying to rush back to form.

“You can’t get two hits in one at bat,” he pointed out. “You have to trust the work you’re getting in.”

The two-time Gold Glove finalist also takes pride in not letting his woes at the plate affect his work in the field. He confidently hustled in to handle Brian Anderson’s bases-loaded, one-out line drive in the sixth inning, which wasn’t deep enough for Derek Dietrich to tag up and score from third. Duvall then had to go back to catch Martin Prado’s medium-deep fly ball and end the threat.

“There are two different sides to the ball,” the 29-year-old said. “You want to play well on both sides, but if you play good defense when you’re not hitting or hit well when you’re not playing good defense, that helps the team.”

Old school: Second baseman Scooter Gennett did well enough in his pre-game workout on Friday to be batting sixth in Riggleman's starting lineup on Saturday, his first start in the field since the previous Saturday. Gennett had been limited to designated hitter and pinch-hitting while dealing with inflammation in his right shoulder, which affected his throwing.

“It’s always good to have him back,” Riggleman said. “He brings a lot of energy. He’s always into the game. He’s a quality hitter, so that’s another good bat in the lineup. He saw some pitches (Friday) night, so hopefully that will help him tonight.

“He’s an old-fashioned ballplayer in the way he goes about his business,” Riggleman added, which probably ranks as the highest compliment he could pay a player.

No setbacks: Right-handers Michael Lorenzen and Anthony DeSclafani both remain on track in their efforts to come back from injuries that have kept them sidelined all season.

DeSclafani threw 29 pitches over two innings in an extended spring training game in Arizona on Friday. Lorenzen threw a 40-pitch bullpen session the same day.

“They’re both on schedule,” Riggleman said. “There’ve been no setbacks.”

Lorenzen is dealing with a right shoulder injury. DeSclafani is coming back from a strained left oblique after missing all of last season with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Black Knight: The New York Mets designated right-handed pitcher Matt "The Dark Knight" Harvey for assignment on Saturday, but Riggleman wasn't aware of any discussions among the Reds decision-makers regarding interest by the Reds in the former All-Star.

“That’s gotten a lot of attention,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who have to make a decision, but we haven’t had any discussions. I’m sure (vice president and assistant general manager) Nick Krall, (president of baseball operations, general manager) Dick Williams and (executive advisor to the chief executive officer) Walt Jocketty are aware of it.”


MONDAY’S GAME

Mets at Reds, 7:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410

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