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Hughes wants to use familiarity as advantage

Reds reliever has spent entire Major League career in NL Central
MLB.com @m_sheldon

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reliever Jared Hughes spent the entirety of a Major League career that began in 2011 pitching for teams in the National League Central. While with the Pirates and the Brewers, and having his teams facing Cincinnati 18-19 times season, Hughes developed his own scouting reports on Reds hitters.

Now that he's with the Reds, following the signing of his two-year, $4.5 million contract in December, Hughes has been in camp sharing what he knows and trying to learn what his new teammates had on him.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reliever Jared Hughes spent the entirety of a Major League career that began in 2011 pitching for teams in the National League Central. While with the Pirates and the Brewers, and having his teams facing Cincinnati 18-19 times season, Hughes developed his own scouting reports on Reds hitters.

Now that he's with the Reds, following the signing of his two-year, $4.5 million contract in December, Hughes has been in camp sharing what he knows and trying to learn what his new teammates had on him.

One of the first players Hughes sought out was speedster Billy Hamilton to learn how runners on first base know when to run against him. He figured why not find out from the best basestealer in the game?

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"I've got information from the last few years. If anybody wants to know, I'm willing to share," Hughes said. "Today, I was talking to Tucker [Barnhart] about what his approach off me was as a lefty and how we can use that to beat other lefties in the league this year. I'm really excited to be throwing to a catcher that has faced me as a left-handed hitter. I think it will improve how I attack lefties."

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Barnhart, a switch-hitter, is one of the Reds who had success -- albeit in a very small sample size -- against Hughes, going 3-for-5 with a triple. He looked forward to using what he knows to help Hughes.

"Maybe not necessarily what he's comfortable with throwing but how he attacked me in the past [will help]," Barnhart said. "It helps break the ice a little bit as far as game-calling is concerned. It doesn't make it as difficult. Catching Jared is fun. He's nasty and will be good for us."

Last season for the Brewers, Hughes had a 3.02 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 67 appearances, but he was non-tendered by the club in the offseason instead of going through arbitration. Over his six seasons with Pittsburgh, Hughes had a 2.82 ERA.

A two-seam fastball/sinkerball pitcher that specializes on keeping the ball down and inducing grounders, Hughes has a 62.3 percent ground-ball rate over his career. According to Statcast™ in 2017, 69 percent of the pitches the 32-year-old right-hander threw were classified as either sinkers or two-seam fastballs.

"As a kid, I would throw my two-seamer to my dad, who would catch me in my [bullpen sessions]," Hughes explained. "He just made me keep throwing it over and over. He said, 'Son, if you keep throwing that pitch like you are now, some day you could be a Major Leaguer with it.'"

Video: MIL@CIN: Hughes snatches a comebacker to rob Hamilton

In the 21 games he's pitched at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park, Hughes has a 2.11 ERA. Of the 17 hits given up at the stadium where balls are known to clear the fences easily, he has allowed five home runs.

"It does jump, so keeping the ball down is going to be big for me," Hughes said. "All of us should try to find ways to keep it in the ballpark."

Barnhart and Hughes have discussed mixing up the repertoire a little more this season.

"Throwing a few more four-seams, a few more sliders," Barnhart said. "Obviously, his bread and butter is the sinker. But the league knows that. We have to find a way to combat that a little bit but not take away from what he does best."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Jared Hughes