Duke leans on experience after early struggles

April 20th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- If a batter goes into a slump, he has four at-bats a day to work through it, or at least he can take extra swings in the cage. A starting pitcher gone wrong can bear down in a bullpen session between starts.

It’s not so easy for a relief specialist, especially one called on in frequent one-batter situations.

The time to turn things around often comes with a game on the line. No time to find some positive reinforcement in no- or low-pressure situations.

“When you only have one hitter to do it against, there’s a whole lot of pressure there,” Reds manager David Bell said Friday. “It’s not as easy as it looks. … Experience is big there -- and mental toughness.”

Calling .

Bell did just that on Thursday with the Reds ahead 3-0 in the sixth inning with two runners on and Eric Hosmer coming to bat as the potential tying run. Duke entered that moment with a 10.13 ERA. Even the lefty-lefty matchup didn’t inspire total confidence -- lefties were batting .333 against him.

All of which mattered not one iota to Duke. He learned a key lesson sometime early in his 15-year career in the Majors.

“Whatever happened yesterday, you can’t let it affect you today,” said Duke, who turned 36 on Friday.

Duke focused not on his early numbers but instead on Hosmer. After falling behind 2-1 in the count, Duke delivered two sinkers to strike out Hosmer.

“That’s my pitch,” Duke said of the sinker. “That’s probably the reason I’ve lasted a while.”

That, plus the mental toughness Bell spoke of. The manager has not grown wary of using Duke in key situations, and he said he was happy to see him get a positive result. For Duke, however, the approach will be the same regardless of result.

“The main thing is to have the same mindset,” Duke said. “Don’t let what happens on the field affect what you do outside the lines to get yourself ready."

Pitcher bats eighth again
Bell put his pitcher in the No. 8 spot of the lineup for the second straight game on Friday. Right-hander batted ahead of second baseman Jose Peraza on Friday. The previous night, pitcher Tanner Roark was ahead of catcher Tucker Barnhart, who delivered a two-run home run from the nine hole.

The idea, Bell said, is to put a hitter ahead of leadoff batter Joey Votto when the lineup turns over and create RBI opportunities for the top of the order. Peraza, however, entered Friday batting .151 and was in an 0-for-21 skid.

Watch both ways
With the Reds protecting a lead on Thursday, two-way player played three innings in center field, his longest stint at the position in five big league seasons. Lorenzen has yet to play the outfield and pitch in the same game, but Bell is keeping the possibility open.

“He was available to pitch [Thursday],” Bell said.

Lorenzen has a 2.16 ERA in 8 1/3 innings over seven relief appearances and is 1-for-5 batting with a double.