Bell on Suárez's struggles: 'Still very early'

April 25th, 2021

The Reds have seen get off to a slow start before and only have to look as far back as last season for such evidence. But Suárez’s month-long slump has been jarring and manager David Bell acknowledged it could have less to do with hitting than defense.

Suárez converted from third base -- his position since 2016 -- to shortstop midway through Spring Training.

“I think there’s something to that, actually. I think playing a new position and the fact that it’s shortstop, he’s had to put so much of his focus and so much of his energy on that position,” Bell said before Sunday’s Reds game at St. Louis. “The good thing is he’s making all of the plays. He’s playing a solid shortstop.”

Suárez was originally a shortstop coming up through the Minors and during his early years in the big leagues.

“I think his focus and his primary attention has been put on the importance of playing good defense at that position,” Bell said. “He was very determined, dedicated to show that he could do it. In my mind, he has shown that over the first month. I don’t think that can be completely out of the question or forgotten.”

Entering Sunday, Suárez’s .149 average was second-worst in the Major Leagues -- among qualified hitters. In his previous nine games, he’s 3-for-39 (.077) with one home run and 19 strikeouts.

Overall, Suárez came into the day with 33 strikeouts in 87 plate appearances – or 37.9 percent.

“When is it concerning? Not in April,” Bell said. “I’ve just seen it too many times, especially with good players and really good offensive players.”

Suárez, who hit 49 homers in 2019, batted .202/.312/.470 with 15 home runs, 38 RBIs and a 98 OPS+ in 57 games last season. He began 2020 by batting .118 with two homers over the first 20 games with 25 strikeouts in 82 plate appearances.

“Each and every day that goes by that he doesn’t feel great at the plate, it’s one day too long for him, I know,” Bell said. “We hate to see any of our players go through it. But it is part of the process. It’s still very early. I think we have to remind ourselves even more this year how early it is because last year was so short. The main thing is he’s doing everything he can. He’s working at it. He’s looking to make any adjustment he needs to make. It truly is a matter of time for him.”

Gutierrez off restricted list
In Sunday’s Reds transactions, right-handed pitcher was reinstated from the restricted list and optioned to the alternate training site.

On Thursday, Gutierrez finished serving an 80-game suspension for violating MLB’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He had already been pitching at the alternate site in Louisville but is now eligible to play in the scrimmages attended by fans.

Gutierrez impressed many during Spring Training this year. The Reds plan to use him as rotation depth in the Minors.

“I think if the need arises, I think he would be built up enough to step in,” Bell said.

To make room for Gutierrez on the 40-man roster, outfielder Aristides Aquino (left hand fracture) was transferred from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day IL.

Cincinnati also added outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. to its alternate site roster.

Two-sport star?
As the Reds have endured bullpen struggles last week, a member of the Cincinnati Bengals offered his services.

On Friday, nose tackle D.J. Reader posted a video of himself throwing off a mound.

Reader, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 347 pounds, could easily challenge the size of former Reds reliever Jumbo Diaz – who also weighed 347 pounds at one point but dropped 69 pounds before he joined the Reds in 2014.