One day after the Opening Day that wasn’t, first-year Cincinnati Reds hitting coach Alan Zinter spoke to reporters on a teleconference about how he’s keeping in touch with the players during the COVID-19 crisis.
There’s no guarantee Major League Baseball will return in May, which is the earliest it could resume. No one knows anything at this point. The big question for Zinter is what does he tell his hitters, all of whom are in different situations.
Should Reds batters approach this as another offseason? Should they try to maintain the level of fitness they reached in spring training? Should they prepare as if they’ll return to action at the earliest possible date?
“Everybody’s gone home,” Zinter said Friday. “There’s a handful of guys that have stayed out here in Arizona. In talking to them, working with them on what’s available at their home, or their public parks here in Arizona, a lot of guys are trying to get into a batting cage, maybe at a neighbor’s house, and I’m just talking to them about their routines and making the best of the situation and trying to stay positive.”
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Major League Baseball suspended spring training March 12. The Reds had played 27 games in the Cactus League in Arizona. The season was first pushed back two weeks from the scheduled Opening Day of March 26 and then postponed until at least May 10.
Until baseball returns, Zinter knows one of the biggest challenges for the players will be staying mentally focused.
“We are human beings, and it is a gloomy thought process right now,” he said. “It’s not fun to get up and hear the news and listen to all that is going on.”
While it would be natural to think hitters could get ready for the season faster than pitchers, Zinter said he’s not sure.
“From a hitter’s point of view, there’s not too many guys who are going to be able to face live pitching or even batting practice from a coach,” he said. “They’re hitting into a net. So I don’t know if there’s an advantage or disadvantage one way or the other. I think it’s challenging for both at this point to stay sharp. Everybody has different circumstances. So that’s the challenging thing, too. Not everybody’s on the same playing field, so we’re just trying to get the guys to do the best they can with what they’re given at this moment.”
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Before spring training ended, Zinter got a chance to work with Reds first baseman Joey Votto for a couple weeks. Votto, 36, is entering his 14th season with the Reds. Zinter, who the Reds hired in October to replace Turner Ward, used the time to build a relationship.
“I’m not coming in here and dumping everything I know on Joey Votto and saying, ‘Hey, Joe, I think you need to do this,’ because that would be ridiculous,” Zinter said. “It’s just having common sense. He respects me coming in and what I need to do. I respect who he is and what he’s done in this world. He’s done some unbelievable things in this game. I can learn from him and hopefully, you know, through conversations, he would get a good sense of what I’m here to do and how I’m here to help support our players and not here to tell players what to do.”