07/01/08 6:27 PM ET
Ross starts against Bucs lefty Duke
Reds look to gain advantage against left-handed pitcher
By Brandon Harris / MLB.com
The right-handed-hitting Ross was favored over lefty Paul Bako, as left-handed hitters are batting just .218 against Duke this season. Righties, meanwhile, are hitting .313.
"I try to use Ross more against left-handers because Bako's been struggling a little bit," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It's not that, as much that as our lineup is so left-handed strong. With a guy like Duke tonight, the league's hitting .218 off him left-handed. If I have too many left-handers in there, it'll be right up his alley."
Bako made two of the three starts in series against both the Yankees and Blue Jays, but Ross got the majority of the work last weekend against the Indians and during the last homestand against the Dodgers and the Red Sox.
Ross' bat has also come alive as of late. He's hit safely in five of his last six games, including a ninth-inning double on Monday that set up Ken Griffey Jr.'s walk-off home run. Ross has raised his average from .224 to .244 since June 17.
Bako, meanwhile, has just one hit in his last five starts and posted a .151 batting average in the month of June.
Bako typically catches Volquez and rookie Johnny Cueto. Ross has caught just two of Volquez's 16 starts this season, with the last coming May 18, against Cleveland. The other came against the Marlins on May 13.
Volquez is one of the Reds' more lively arms, but Ross said it shouldn't present much of a problem.
"The pitchers get comfortable throwing to certain guys a lot of times, but you just go out there and catch a little longer before the game to prepare," Ross said. "I'll go 10 to 15 minutes and catch most of his bullpen before the game today and it should be OK."
Baker said he does not advocate having catchers only work with certain pitchers.
"Bako usually catches Volquez and Cueto, but there are times when you can't, and shouldn't do that," Baker said. "You try to get away, as the season goes on, from having designated catchers for pitchers. What happens if that catcher gets hurt mid-season and the other catcher hasn't even caught a guy?"
Brandon Harris is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.