CINCINNATI — An American League scout glanced at the Cincinnati Reds lineup sheet over the weekend and said with a shake of his head, “I can’t believe Marlon Byrd is still here. That guy could really help a contending team. In fact, I wish my team could have traded for him.”
After a dismal first month of hitting close to .100, during which he was trying too hard to impress his new employees and teammates, Byrd has been one of the team’s more productive operatives.
AND IS THE MAN tough or what? He fractured his wrist and 16 days later he was back in the lineup and has hit .301 since then that included a team-best 13-game hitting streak. Overall he has 18 home runs and 38 RBI.
What more can he do? Well, listen to infielder Eugenio Suarez, a guy hitting .302 with five homers, six doubles and 21 RBI as a stand-in for injured shortstop Zack Cozart.
ON SATURDAY NIGHT Suarez drove in a run in each of three trips to the plate, three RBI in a 4-3 Reds win over the Pirates.
And afterwards he said, “Marlon Byrd has helped me a lot. He has worked hard with me, really helped me with my stroke.”
So, it is obvious Byrd has taken Suarez under his wing, right?
When it was mentioned to Byrd that Suarez credits him with a helping hand (or wing), he seemed surprised and said, “Oh, yeah? We just work in the cage. I love talking hitting with the kids, talking leg kicks and tap steps. When he asks me questions I answer them the best way that I can. The big thing is that we’re both big leg kick guys as part of our stroke and we can talk about what feels right when things are going good and what feels bad when things go wrong. We go in the cage and work and talk.”
The Reds didn’t trade Byrd by the trade deadline. They could still deal him as part of a waivers deal before the season ends or trade him after the season if he qualifies to stay. If Byrd makes 550 plate appearances this year, his contract automatically vests for 2016 at $8 million. As of Saturday he had 327 plate appearances.
ANOTHER SURPRISE player this year has been utility player Ivan DeJesus Jr., signed over the winter as a free agent out of the Boston Red Sox system.
“He is our 2015 version of last year’s Kris Negron,” said manager Bryan Price. “Kris came up and had a great impact on our team last year.”
Negron was given the opportunity to do it again this year but was unable to hit and was sent back to Class AAA Louisville, replaced by DeJessus.
“Ivan has done the same thing this year that Kris did last year,” said Price. “He has impacted us very much defensively, which is what initially attracted us to sign him. The offense, the bat control, the ability to do so much offensively has been a bonus, an unexpected bonus.”
In 34 games and 89 at bats, DeJesus is hitting .281 with four home runs and 14 RBI. The 27-year-old infielder is the son of Ivan DeJesus, who played 14 years in the majors for seven teams.
“From the time we saw him in spring training to the present he has been terrific,” said Price. “He puts balls in play, stays in the middle of the diamond, giving us some power, hits behind runners, is a hit-and-run guy who can get a bunt down. He just does a lot of good things for us.”
JOEY VOTTO was not in Sunday’s lineup, a chance to give him two straight days off because the Red don’t play Monday.
“Joey played every game in July,” said Price. “So this is jut putting two games together for days off.”
FROM A SCOUT WHO watched Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star pitcher A.J. Burnett start Thursday’s game, a 15-5 Reds victory: “He was throwing nothing but batting practice fastballs.”