Notes: Freel to practice patience
Speedy utilityman focuses on base-stealing skills
CINCINNATI -- Ryan Freel realized he's been trying too hard to make something happen.The Reds utility player is tied for the team lead with eight steals. But Freel has also been caught stealing six times, which is second highest in the National League. "We definitely talked about it," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. Freel was thrown out trying to steal on Monday by Washington catcher Brian Schneider. On Sunday at Cleveland, he was picked off second base by Indians pitcher Paul Byrd. "Everyone knows you're a base stealer, and they'll do everything to shut you down," Narron said. "There are times that you have to pick your spots to run. There are times that you do not want to go. If he's patient, he'll get some stolen bases." With Freel as the Reds' usual leadoff hitter, the team needs him to spark rallies ahead of the middle of the order. After talking with Narron, the 31-year-old understood he needed to be more patient. "I just think, sometimes, I've been a little not as smart on the bases," said Freel who started in center field on Wednesday. "I'm trying to force things. You just have to pick and choose the right time. Sometimes I haven't been picking the right spots." Freel stole a club-high 37 bases last season, and had 110 steals over the previous three seasons. Along with Brandon Phillips, he's one of Cincinnati's few speed threats on the bases. Entering Wednesday, Freel was batting .261 with one homer and 10 RBIs but hit a leadoff homer in the first inning vs. Washington. He's also struck out 25 times, compared to 10 walks. "I'm not getting on base as much as I did before," Freel said. "It's definitely hurting the running game. Pitchers aren't stupid. They know guys that can run and guys that can't. They know how to slide-step a lot. They make adjustments. Therefore, I have to make adjustments." Doctor, Doctor: Outfielder Josh Hamilton, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with gastroenteritis, had his diagnosis confirmed following a battery of tests performed by gastrologist Dr. Alan Peck on Wednesday afternoon. The Reds said that Hamilton will rest over the next few days and then ease his way back into baseball activity. Bullpen puzzle: The Reds have allowed 38 eighth-inning runs this season, tied for the most in the Majors. They've allowed three or more runs in the eighth a league-leading seven times. Whether it's Todd Coffey, Mike Stanton, Kirk Saarloos or someone else, Narron has exhausted almost all of his options in the eighth. The club's best, and most consistent, reliever has been closer David Weathers. It has Narron contemplating calling on Weathers earlier, and worrying about the ninth inning later. "Believe me, I've thought about it," Narron said. "I've thought about using Weathers in the seventh, eighth and ninth." Narron is considering trying out hard-throwing rookie right-handers Jared Burton and Brad Salmon in the eighth. More options could open up if and when Gary Majewski is called up from Triple-A Louisville. Majewski has had a run of several strong appearances but has yet to throw back-to-back games since returning from a bereavement leave earlier this month. With Saarloos now in the starting rotation, the Reds are also low on long-relief options. Victor Santos threw four innings on Monday and wasn't expected to be available again on Wednesday. "If Santos isn't available, we'll have to go inning-by-inning and somebody is going to have to give us two [innings] that hasn't been doing that," Narron said. "Whether it's Coffey, Salmon or Burton, somebody would have to give us multiple innings, possibly even three." Phone connections: Ken Griffey Jr. frequently downloads dialogue or songs from movies to be the ringtone for his cell phone. Now, Griffey is trying to take it to another level. He is working to get actor Samuel L. Jackson to personally record an outgoing voicemail message using dialogue from his career-making movie, "Pulp Fiction." Coming up: Matt Belisle (4-3, 4.58) will start for the Reds in the four-game series finale vs. the Nationals on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Lefty Mike Bacsik (0-0, 0.00) is Washington's scheduled starter.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.