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Reds walk the walk

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jonny Gomes has learned patience at the plate this season. (Associated Press)
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jonny Gomes has learned patience at the plate this season. (Associated Press)

The Big Red Machine sure would be proud.

The National League’s most potent offense has learned how to score by doing nothing.

The Cincinnati Reds got off to their best start in 21 years by showing patience at the plate. Reds batters walked 21 times during their 5-0 start, leaving them among the league leaders in that category.

It’s a notable change.

Last season, the Reds overpowered teams with an offense that led the league in batting average, homers and slugging percentage. They ranked only 10th in walks, preferring to take their bases several at a time.

That reputation may be part of the change. Pitchers are being careful with the defending N.L. Central champs so far.

“When people know you can hit, most of the time they’re not just going to come at you,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s up to you.”

Jonny Gomes is the best example of the turnaround. Last season, the free-swinging outfielder walked only 39 times. During an 8-2 win over the Astros on Tuesday night, Gomes drew a pair of walks with the bases loaded, laying off close pitches.

“If you taught every kid to hit in the big leagues, I think all you’d have to say is swing at strikes and take balls and you’ll be successful,” Gomes said. “That’s what we’re doing. I don’t think it’s any more than that.”

Rockies take no chances with Jimenez

Ubaldo Jimenez and the Colorado Rockies were worried the cracked cuticle on his pitching thumb would alter his pitching mechanics and lead to a full-blown arm injury.

So, the ace ended up on the 15-day disabled list, the first trip to the DL for the 27-year-old Dominican who was the All-Star Game’s N.L. starter last summer.

“It’s never good when you go on the DL, especially this being my first time,” Jimenez said. “It’s disappointing, but it’s for my own good. It’s good for the team, too. I mean, every time I go out there I want to be 100 percent so I can help my team out. There’s no sense in going out there and not doing good for the team.”

Clearing the bases

Chicago White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn underwent an emergency appendectomy Tuesday night and will miss at least five games. … Larry Shepard, the former Pittsburgh Pirates manager who later became the pitching coach for Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine, died Tuesday at Lincoln, Neb. He was 92. Shepard managed future Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente and the Pirates to an 80-82 record in 1968. He was the Cincinnati Reds’ pitching coach from 1970-78.