Outfielder Dickerson studying up

Outfielder Dickerson studying up

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's not often a player gets a homework assignment during Spring Training. And the books manager Dusty Baker gave to outfield prospect Chris Dickerson aren't light reading.

Baker gave Dickerson The Art of Hitting .300, Ted Williams' The Science of Hitting and his own book, You Can Teach Hitting.

"We've been working on stuff and Dusty showed me a couple things," Dickerson said. "He gave me a couple of books and reference books. He made a couple of points with highlights."

Before Monday's game with the Twins, Baker also called Dickerson over to the batting practice cage to meet and chat with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Paul Molitor, who are spring instructors for Minnesota.

Baker has been watching Dickerson closely in camp and was effusive with praise on Monday.

"I've probably seen more improvement out of him than anybody in camp -- from what I saw at the beginning," Baker said. "He's really paying attention and done some adjustments daily. That's what you like to see in a young hitter is improvement. His ceiling might be higher than anyone here."

Dickerson's name has been mostly on the periphery in regards to the starting center-field battle. Meanwhile Ryan Freel, Norris Hopper and top prospect Jay Bruce have been in the forefront.

"He's a guy they don't mention much, but he's a tremendous ball of ability," Baker said. "He can be a five-tool guy. He has the tools."

Last season, the 25-year-old Dickerson batted a combined .263 with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs at Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville. Considered one of the fastest players in camp, he led all Reds Minor Leaguers with 30 stolen bases. The organization is also very high on his throwing arm.

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The main knock on Dickerson had been his hitting skills -- he's a career .255 Minor League hitter. After the regular season, he was among the elite prospects playing in the Arizona Fall League and learned from the coaches. Once that was finished, he put in extra work with Reds hitting coach Brook Jacoby near their homes in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"We started hitting like two months ago and started working on some stuff," Dickerson said. "Being out there with Brook, I noticed a tremendous difference. It was about unlocking doors. We both knew I was capable of a lot. It's just getting into consistent hitting positions."

Dickerson led off on Monday for Cincinnati and was 0-for-3 in the 8-6 loss to Minnesota. Through six games, he is 4-for-14 (.286) with one homer and two RBIs.

"I'm coming in early and trying to make the adjustments day by day," Dickerson said. "Between Fall League and coming here, putting all those things together from the different hitting coaches has really helped a lot."

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