Cost-cutting takes a bite out of offense for Cincinnati Reds
CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati Reds corner outfielders Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker were All-Star Game starters for the National League last year.
Third baseman Eugenio Suárez slammed 129 home runs in the last four seasons and was a fan favorite.
So are Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart, starting pitchers Sonny Gray and Wade Miley, and relievers Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett and Mychal Givens.
All were traded or sought better deals as the Reds trimmed the payroll after finishing third (83-79) in the NL Central in 2021.
The bottom line is that the Reds will need some guys to overachieve if they hope to compete with the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. They open April 7 in Atlanta.
“Definitely frustrated, for sure,” said second baseman Jonathan India, the 2021 National League Rookie of the Year. “I think most of the guys in here are frustrated, but hey, it’s a business. Now I’m seeing stuff like this, it’s really sad. All I can do is play my part.”
With Suarez gone, veteran Mike Moustakas, who missed 85 games because of injuries last season, will return to his natural position of third base.
“Mike has earned that,” Reds manager David Bell said of the 33-year-old Moustakas. “We know what kind of player he is. He was already factoring in there anyway.”
Kyle Farmer, who played slick shortstop last year and hit .263 with 16 homers and 63 RBIs, is the presumptive starter there again with José Barrero — considered the shortstop of the future for the Reds — sidelined for around six weeks after hand surgery.
Castellanos and Winker will be missed. Pencil in injury-prone Nick Senzel in center field, and Tyler Naquin in right field after he hit a respectable .270 with 19 homers last season.
New Red Tommy Pham, who was with the San Diego Padres the last two years, is expected to start in left. Others who will play in the outfield — and fill the DH role — include Aristides Aquino and Jake Fraley, among others.
“Defense is another part of our game by upgrading that it is going to help us win games,” Bell said. “We have a chance to be a better defensive team. If we can improve our athleticism, improve our defense, speed, it all adds up.”
ROOKIES TO WATCH
Flame-throwing rookies Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo have been brought along slowly by the Reds. Greene will be in the starting rotation to begin the season and Lodolo — a lefty — may end up there, too, as the fifth guy. Right-hander Tyler Mahle will start the opener, and the rotation will be rounded out by left-hander Reiver Sanmartin and right-hander Vladimir Gutiérrez. Right-hander Luis Castillo and left-hander Mike Minor, veteran starters, will miss at least their first starts because of injuries.
India and catcher Tyler Stephenson hope to build on outstanding rookie campaigns. India hit .269 with 21 homers. Stephenson showed he could be an everyday catcher at the major league level and hit .286, leading the Reds to part with Barnhart after eight seasons. The pair split time behind the plate last year.
CAN VOTTO STILL BANG?
One of the great surprises of 2021 for the Reds was the resurgence of first baseman Joey Votto. The 38-year-old former MVP changed up his stance and started swinging for the fences again, slamming 36 homers and driving in 119 despite missing time because of the coronavirus and a broken thumb. He begins his 16th season just as the National League adopts the DH, which could extend his career.
“I’m looking forward to being on the field and seeing how we play together,” Votto said. “It was an odd (preseason) in terms of losing a lot of friends and personalities inside the clubhouse. The players that are coming in to replace them are going to bring their own personalities, have their own energy. I look forward to learning from them and playing with them.”
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