De La Cruz breaks his own record with cannon throw

July 20th, 2023

CINCINNATI -- It didn't take long for Reds rookie to break his own record for throwing velocity on an infield assist.

During Thursday afternoon's 5-1 victory over the Giants at Great American Ball Park, De La Cruz zinged a 99.8 mph heave to the plate to nail Wilmer Flores trying to score.

"I knew on that throw I was going to be able to throw it as quickly as possible," De La Cruz said via translator Jorge Merlos. "I’m just ready every time to throw whatever is needed."

In a career spanning only 37 big league games so far, De La Cruz is already tied as the career leader in most 95-plus mph infield assists -- four – with the Padres' Fernando Tatis Jr.

"We had to get that guy out at home. But you know what? I can definitely throw harder than that," De La Cruz said.

De La Cruz's throw was harder than any made by any of the three Giants pitchers or two Reds pitchers used in the game. San Francisco reliever Mauricio Llovera maxxed at 97.4 mph.

Just on Sunday vs. the Brewers, De La Cruz was playing third base when he fielded a grounder and recorded what was Statcast's fastest-tracked infield assist at 97.9 mph.

Hardest infielder relay assists tracked by Statcast
1. Elly De La Cruz: 99.8 mph, 7/20/23
2. Didi Gregorius: 96.1 mph, 5/11/15
3-T. Fernando Tatis Jr.: 95.8 mph, 7/6/21
3-T. Didi Gregorius: 95.8 mph, 8/10/16
5-T. Carlos Correa: 94.8 mph, 8/6/16
5-T. Danny Espinosa: 94.8 mph, 7/17/16

On Thursday, San Francisco had Flores on first base with two outs in the fourth inning when Luis Matos hit a double over Will Benson's outstretched glove in left-center field for the lone hit of the day against Reds starting pitcher Andrew Abbott.

As Benson retrieved the ball with a brief bobble, Flores was being waved around third base to score. Playing shortstop, De La Cruz was the cutoff man who received the throw on the shallow outfield grass. He turned and fired a one-hop throw to catcher Luke Maile, slightly up the first-base line.

Maile caught the ball and dove across the plate to successfully tag out the sliding Flores. 

“The thing about Elly too is he’s just helping us win in so many ways," Reds manager David Bell said. "A lot of it goes maybe unnoticed, even though we’re all recognizing what a special player he is. Taking a run off the board is huge in any game. That was a big play today.”

Maile is already used to the challenge of catching high-velocity pitchers.

“He’s probably throwing it from [205] feet, so I’ve got a little bit of an advantage there plus a bounce," Maile said of De La Cruz. "You feel pretty good that it’s going to get to you.”

Flores does not have elite speed. He was running at 24.4 feet per second but it was going to take a near-perfect throw to get him out. De La Cruz did just that.

"I saw Mark read that bobble, made a quick decision, and De La Cruz made a good relay and a perfect throw to the plate. But with two outs, I have no issue with that send," Giants manager Gabe Kapler said.

The 99.8 mph throw was the fastest-tracked infield assist since Statcast began in 2015.

But for how long? With De La Cruz, this appears to be a record made to be broken -- repeatedly.