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06/14/09 7:34 PM ET

Baker trying to get Taveras over slump

Cincinnati (31-31) vs. Atlanta (30-32), 7:10 p.m. ET

KANSAS CITY -- To try and prevent Reds center fielder Willy Taveras' slump from becoming a summer epic, manager Dusty Baker gave him the day off on Sunday vs. the Royals.

"I'm just going to work with him today, personally," Baker said. "When they're on the field, I'll be with him going over a few things. It's just a little different voice, probably saying the same thing."

Chris Dickerson started in center field and led off for the Reds. He didn't fare much better than Taveras while going 0-for-4 in a 7-1 loss to the Royals and was unable to hit a ball out of the infield.

Taveras is mired in a career-long 0-for-32 hitless skid and has a .229 batting average with a .283 on-base percentage. Over the winter, the 27-year-old former Rockies and Astros player was signed to a two-year, $6.25 million free-agent contract.

"When we got Willy, everybody knew we got an unrefined product," Baker said. "Willy has a lot there. Just let us do our job to help refine him and make him better. If he wasn't unrefined, then he wouldn't have been in a lot of places in a short period of time."

The Reds will open a three-game series with the Braves at Great American Ball Park. It remains to be seen if Taveras would be back in the lineup, but it seemed probable.

While talking about Taveras, Baker also pointed out what he felt was a larger big-picture issue.

"This is where the teaching part comes in," Baker said. "Everybody wants us in first place by five games but this is going to be an ongoing process. We're in this for the long run. Do we want it now? Oh, heck yeah. But do we have to realize that we're still in the process of teaching and making guys better? That's the real realization of the whole situation here."

It's about as fine of a line as you can teeter over -- the wanting to win now while trying to learn and build for the future. The Reds are loaded with players that aren't as young as they are inexperienced.

Dickerson, Ryan Hanigan, Paul Janish and Adam Rosales are in their late 20s, but all have less than two years of experience. Jay Bruce is 22 and in his second season.

"You don't like it but it's the situation that we're in," Baker said. "We're not the Yankees with a whole bunch of veteran guys and a few kids. Patience is hard to sell. But it's something I must continue to be if we're going to stay on our long-term plan. We need short-term success to satisfy myself and everybody else. If everybody wasn't losing ... we're fortunate to be where we are."

Pitching matchup
CIN: RHP Aaron Harang (5-6, 3.74 ERA)
Harang got back on track after a few rough starts with a very good effort against the Nationals on Wednesday. He threw 7 2/3 shutout innings, staying out of trouble the entire time. Harang had given up homers in his last eight appearances, but Washington didn't hit the ball hard, much less have a shot at a homer. Baker said after the Reds pulled out a 4-2 victory in 12 innings that Harang had been "lights-out."

ATL: RHP Jair Jurrjens (5-4, 2.85 ERA)
Jurrjens took the loss on Wednesday against the Pirates despite giving up two runs on just four hits in six innings. The young right-hander struggled in the early innings with control, which led to him throwing 111 pitches in just six innings. Last year, Jurrjens was shelled in his only career start against the Reds. He lasted just 4 1/3 innings while allowing six runs on nine hits and walking six. Despite three starts in a row that Jurrjens hasn't been his sharpest, his ERA is still below 3.00.

Reds notes
Brandon Phillips has a seven-game hitting streak, but is 7-for-29 (.241) during it. ... Laynce Nix snapped an 0-for-13 skid with a ninth-inning single on Sunday. ... Monday is Baker's 60th birthday.

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Up next
• Wednesday: Reds (Micah Owings, 3-7, 4.64) vs. Braves (Javier Vazquez, 4-5, 3.31), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Reds (Matt Maloney, 0-1, 4.50) vs. Braves (Tommy Hanson, 1-0, 6.17), 12:35 p.m. ET
• Friday: Reds (Bronson Arroyo, 7-5, 5.36) vs. White Sox (Clayton Richard, 2-1, 3.76), 7:10 p.m. ET

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.