CINCINNATI — A joke that makes the rounds on the Cincinnati Reds left field situation is: “What does it take to play left field for the Reds?” Answer: “All it takes is a valid driver’s license, but a fake one will do, too.”
Since Adam Dunn was traded in 2008, left field for the Reds has been a vacant field, a place occupied by a bunch of itinerants who come and go with the prevailing winds.
That’s what interests Adam Duvall. Adam Dunn? Adam Duvall? Two guys with A.D. initials and two guys with big bats.
IN HIS BIOGRAPHY in the 2015 San Francisco Giants media guide it lists Adam Duvall as, “Infielder.”
An infielder is always what he wanted to be, mainly because he followed Derek Jeter. And that made him a New York Yankees follower, too, although he says, “I enjoy watching baseball, but I enjoy playing it more. I just watched the Yankees because I wanted to see Jeter.”
And because of that, even though he grew up in Louisville, Ky., and still lives there, he wasn’t a Cincinnati Reds fan.
NOW, THOUGH, HE works for the Cincinnati Reds and is happy about it twofold. He was acquired from the Giants at the trade deadline for pitcher Mike Leake.
And there is an ironic twist to that. Last year, on June 26, Duvall made his major league debut. He not only faced Leake, he hit a home run, only the ninth Giant to hit a home run in his first major league game.
THE ‘INFIELDER’ tag is no longer attached to his name. It has been replaced by ‘outfielder,’ and that’s fine with him. Duvall realizes that left field is open country in Cincinnati, a vacant lot ready to be filled by whomever can grab it. Duvall, 27, would love to claim squatter’s rights for the 2016 season.
He was in left field Friday night against the St. Louis Cardinals, getting a look-see from the Reds. He is hitting .250 in eight at bats — 2 for 8 — and both hits have been home runs. He hit his first home run in his first at-bat for the Reds.
He does carry firepower — at least that’s what his minor league numbers say. Playing at Class AAA Fresno in 2014, he hit .298 with 27 homers, 21 doubles and 90 RBI in 91 games.
ALTHOUGHO HE MOSTLY played infield for the Giants, he isn’t a complete neophyte in the outfield.
“I played a little bit last year and I played some at Triple-A,” he said. “I do like it, really like it. I don’t know if I like the outfield better than the infield, but it is no worse. I enjoy it.”
Knowing his opportunity, an open left field, he said, “Yeah, I know that. I just want to produce and help the team win.”
Manager Bryan Price sees some good things from the 6-1, 205-pounder.
“He is a mature kid who seems to know what to do and where to be,” said Price. “He knows how to handle himself in this environment. He seems like a mature baseball player and it doesn’t seem he’ll be overwhelmed. He looks very, very comfortable.”
ALTHOUGH A ROTATION spot is still in left hander Brandon Finnegan’s future, don’t look for him to start any games for the Reds the rest of this season.
“He’ll be a great guy to bring in behind a left handed starter, especially if a team loads up its lineup with left handed hitters,” said Price.
The Kansas City Royals used him in relief, but when the Reds acquired him in the Johnny Cueto trade they saw him as a starter. But he needed stretched out and he gradually built up his pitch count at Class AAA Louisville in eight starts. His pitch-count reached 88.
“He only reached the fifth inning a couple of times in Louisville and I feel that he needs to go out and compete with enough pitches to be able to pitch five innings. He’d need about 75. At this point, though, I’m not sure he’ll start any games this year. But he’ll get some innings for sure.”
CATCHER BRYAN PENA won’t be playing for a few days due to a hamstring strain, but the Reds are fortified at catcher with Tucker Barnhart and recent call-up Ramon Cabrera.
“It’s a mild strain, so I don’t see him catching in the next couple of days,” said Price. “He might be eligible to pinch-hit a day or so before he is ready to catch.”