After sophomore slump, India looks to find himself

February 17th, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Following a 100-loss season for the Reds in 2022, fans were often cynical about the club's 2023 prospects during the offseason. was not spared from social media criticism after a subpar second season in the big leagues.

One fan suggested India had already hit his ceiling in 2021, when he was the National League's Rookie of the Year. The second baseman took notice.

"Thank you for this," India tweeted back to some of the fans who doubted him.

Why did India reply?

"It fires me up. I want that fuel in me because I’m going to show everyone that I am the player I am. There’s a reason why I got here," India said.

After he endured injuries that saw his offensive production wane and defensive range sink in 2022, India is very motivated to make his third season great. He arrived in Arizona early -- on Feb. 1 -- after dropping 10 pounds in the offseason.

But this isn't a "best shape of his career" story. India feels best about where he is mentally.

"My dad always preached that confidence is the biggest thing in life," India said. "I lost a little bit last year with the injury and not being on the field with my guys. We were losing. It was hard for me to watch. I was getting a little bit in my head with stuff. ‘Did I not prepare well enough? Am I letting my guys down?’ I lost some of that fire in me. Coming back, I tried to do too much because we were not good. The reality was we just weren’t good. 

"I think showing the way I am this year, being the confident guy I usually am, is going to take a lot of us the right way this year. It’s going to be a positive feeling the whole year. I want everyone to have that, not just me."

India, 26, batted .249 with a .705 OPS, 10 home runs and 41 RBIs last season while limited to 103 games. An April right hamstring injury put him on the injured list twice for a combined 48 games. In August vs. the Cubs at the Field of Dreams Game in Iowa, he was hit by a pitch on the left shin and had to be airlifted to a hospital. He missed only three games and started a 16-game hitting streak afterwards, but the bone bruise affected him the rest of the season. 

In '21, India batted .269 with an .835 OPS, 21 homers and 69 RBIs. 

"When guys have such a great start to their career, you forget they are still really young," Reds manager David Bell said. "There are going to be the ups and downs. … You have to keep coming back to the center of who you are. I think that’s what last year did for Jonathan. He’s going to get back to exactly who he is and just be the player he’s capable of being.

"A lot of times, [a career] ebbs and flows because of human nature. It’s not that you stop working or you’re less determined or anything, you wouldn’t survive in the big leagues if that was your problem. The guys that do have that problem don’t survive. The guys who survive and have good, long, consistent careers continue to fight through that and find ways to get better."

In the offseason after '21, India worked out with former teammate Nick Castellanos and intentionally added weight and muscle. It was a choice he wound up regretting.

"I thought that was smart, I’d get bigger and hit some homers. That’s not me," India said. "I learned the hard way that’s not how you do it. I’ll definitely maintain my weight and body the way it is."

India also wished he had taken more time off last season to heal from the hamstring and shin injuries. 

"I didn’t want to come off the field," he said. "I had talks where they said, ‘Take some games off.’ I’m not that player. I look back at it as not the smartest decision."

India worked with a sprint coach in the offseason to get his running form right and body in shape. He noted that his sprint speed was 3 mph faster.

"I’m back to the player I am -- a hard grinder who plays hard no matter what," India said. "My body wasn’t allowing me to do that last year. The [hamstring] injury early in the year affected me the whole year. No excuses, but if I take care of my body this season, I’ll be who I am."