CINCINNATI — Of all the bum, busted and broken trades the Cincinnati Reds have made in recent years, one that has been a startling success was the trade that brought back Eugenio Suarez.
What makes it so good so far is not only the that Suarez is blossoming into a sold major league player, but also also all it took to get him was send fading relief pitcher Alfredo Simon to the Detroit Tigers.
At first, it didn’t look so promising. Suarez is a natural shortstop and played shortstop all through the Tigers system. But the Reds had Zack Cozart at shortstop, so they moved Suarez to third base.
In 2016 Suarez committed 23 errors, the most for any third basemen in the Major Leagues. Mostly they were throws and he had fans behind first base ducking for their lives and believing they should wear catcher’s masks when Suarez was on the field.
But they worked with him. They worked and worked and worked. He was on the field early, before anybody else, taking ground balls from coach Freddie Benavides and making throws to first base.
And quickly the transformation was magical. One year after leading the majors in errors, Suarez led the National League in fielding percentge for a third baseman, .976. He doesn’t just make the routine plays. His defensive skills and prowess produce some magical plays. So far this season he has made just one error and that came last mid-week on a wild throw to second base.
His offense, too, keeps getting better. He produced 26 home runs and 82 RBI last season. The Reds, recognizing the potential of the 26-year-old Venezuelan, signed him to a seven-year contract extension worth $66 million.
Amazingly, Suarez suffered a fractured right thumb on April 8 when hit by a pitch thrown by Pittsburgh’s Jameson Taillon and missed only 18 days. In the nine games since his return Suarez is hitting .300 with three doubles, two home runs and 13 RBI.
Suarez showed up this spring with his hair bleached whilte, something his wife suggested and something he likes. And everybody recognized him, especially when he wears his baseball cap and his hair is covered up.
As do most successful people in life, baseball players included, Suarez attributes the upward movement in his performance to three words: work, work, work.
“Yes, I’m really enjoying my moments right now,” he said, proudly doing his interviews on his own when he utilized a translator at the beginning of last season. “Whenever I get to home plate, I just try to do all my own stuff and not think about all the bad things. I just want to put a good swing on the ball in all my at bats.”
Suarez is more into team than ‘I’ and said, “The most important things is to win as many games as we can.” So far for the Reds, there is no happiness there.
Suarez hit a three-run first-inning home run Friday night to give the Reds a 3-0 lead in a game they won, 4-1. The home run came off Miami starter Wei-Yin Chen and Suarez said with a smile, “I’d never faced Chen and I think I was lucky to hit that home run.”
EVERYBODY KNOWS THE game, “Where’s Waldo?” In Cincinnati the questions is, “Where’s Senzel?” Fans are getting restless about seeing the highly-regarded infielder whom the Reds drafted No. 1 two years ago.
Senzel missed a game recently with vertigo, an issue he had briefly while playing for the Class A Dayton Dragons two years ago.
When Reds manager Jim Riggleman was asked about Senzel’s possible arrival in Cincinnati, he pretty much washed his hands of it.
“From my standpoint, I really stay out of that,” he said. “I have such great respect for the people in the minor leagues, a place I spent many years in a lot of roles. To me, nobody can tell you when a player is ready more so than the people who have him every day.
“That’s opposed to somebody looking at reports or somebody going in there and seeing him a few days and leaving,” Riggleman added. “The manager and coaches down there will be able to tell you when he is ready more so than anybody. So, when they say that, we will listen.”
WHEN HOMER BAILEY toes the rubber Monday night against the New York Mets it will be his 200th major league start. With his 0-and-4 start this season, Bailey’s carrer record is one game below .500 at 66-and-67. Two of those 66 wins have been no-hitters.
“That’s a big number,” said Riggleman. “He has been around a long time (since 2007) and the number would be 250 ir 275 had it not been for what happens to most pitchers — they get wear and tear on the arm and get cut on (three surgeries for Bailey). That’s a big one and far exceeds anything we look at here right now. He is our veteran and leads our staff. That’s a proud moment.”
Riggleman says there has been a change in Bailey, from a thrower to a pitcher.
“He has changed coming back from his surgeries,” he said. “He was a high 90s guy and now he is more of guy throwing 92 and getting some ground balls. He gets fewer strikeouts, but that leads to a couple of low-pitch games. He is pitching to contact now more than he did before his surgeries and that’s a good thing.”
THE TWO ABSENT PITCHERS still on the disabled list, Michael Lorenzen and Anthony DeSclafani, are in Goodyear, Ariz. at extended spring training. Riggleman said Lorezen recently threw 40 pitches in the bullpen and DeSclafani pitched two innings of a simulated game.
“They are both doing very well and they are on their schedules for their returns and there have been no setbacks,” said Riggleman.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Manager Jim Riggleman on Scooter Gennett: “Scooter is an old-fashioned ball player. He is into everything. He is always talking, talking to his teammtes, talking to the coaches. He has some ideas and he comes up with some good stuff. He is totally engrossed into the game and every situation that comes up.”