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Price looking for shift work on defense in '14

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Reds have shown this spring that they will be employing defensive shifts on opposing hitters this spring. It's something to expect to see during the regular season as well.

"I know at times pitchers get a little bit anxious if you have an over-shift on a hitter, but it's a game of percentages," manager Bryan Price said on Tuesday. "I think we're going to be a little bit more inclined to set our defense in the areas of the field where the highest percentage of balls are hit based on the hitter. It makes sense. There will definitely be times where the hitter beats the shift. But the data is pretty dramatic."

According to the Hardball Times, the Reds used a defensive shift 221 times in 2013 under former manager Dusty Baker, which was 14th most in the Majors. Opponents batting average on balls in play (BABIP) with a shift was .267 vs. a .283 BABIP without one.

A big proponent of the shift, besides Price, is new bench coach Jay Bell, who was on the Pirates' coaching staff last season. Pittsburgh used a shift the second-most in the National League last season, but did what they called "optimized defensive positioning" on every opponent's plate appearance.

"When we hired Jay, we talked a lot about the fact that they put an emphasis on their defensive alignments and it made a difference for their ball club," Price said. "I just think it simply makes sense. The data is going to suggest that there is reason for a dramatic shift, it's something we'll definitely look into."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
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