Prospect Garcia aiming high at Reds camp

SS up for challenge in making Opening Day roster; spring game lengths flexible

February 24th, 2021

Reds shortstop prospect got exactly one month’s worth of time in the Major Leagues during the shortened 2020 season. Garcia jumped from Class A Advanced Daytona to the alternate training site to the big leagues.

Even with a vacancy at shortstop, Cincinnati could send Garcia back to the Minors to sharpen his hitting skills. The 22-year-old feels like he can challenge to win a spot on the Opening Day roster for Cincinnati.

“I feel physically and mentally ready to put myself out there and just give it all my best to have an opportunity to make it with this club,” Garcia said Wednesday via translator Jorge Merlos. “I’ve been training a lot this winter. I’ve been training real hard, and I’ve been getting excited for this season.”

The Reds are looking at Garcia, Kyle Farmer, Kyle Holder, Alex Blandino and non-roster invite Dee Strange-Gordon at shortstop this spring after offseason attempts to sign a shortstop were unsuccessful.

When Garcia came to camp last year, his glove was clearly ready for the big leagues. Offensively, he impressed by hitting four home runs before Spring Training was shut down because of the pandemic.

Following his debut for the Reds on Aug. 27, Garcia batted .194 with no extra-base hits and 26 strikeouts in 68 plate appearances over 24 games.

“Last year was a big year for Jose. There’s no question, just to state the obvious, that we rushed Jose to the big leagues,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It was out of necessity. It was also out of knowing he could handle it, and that it could be a good experience and it wouldn’t set him back.

"Even though you look at his numbers offensively, I can still point to many things I saw over the course of his time that lead me to believe it made him better. It was a good experience for him. He handled it well mentally, and he was very mature in the way he handled it all. He stepped in and played a good shortstop for us.”

During the offseason, Garcia bulked up in size and worked on his swing.

“I don’t think I’m worried about that anymore,” said Garcia, who hails from Havana, Cuba. “I think everyone knows what they have to do to really get up to that Major League status and face Major League pitchers. I think everyone knows what they pitch now as well, so I’ve really been working mentally and physically to get to that Major League status as well.”

Bell wasn’t ready to determine where Garcia might begin the 2021 season.

“We just have to be really thoughtful about doing what’s best for Jose,” Bell said. “Obviously our goal is to win as a team. We’ll have to see how it plays out. It wouldn’t surprise me if he started in the Minor Leagues, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up being a big part of our Major League team this year.”

Spring game lengths could be shorter
Under new rules to adapt to pandemic conditions and smaller camp numbers, Spring Training games beginning Sunday through March 13 will be scheduled as seven-inning games. Upon mutual agreement between opponents, they can be shortened to five innings or lengthened to nine innings. From March 14 until the end of camp, games are scheduled for nine innings but can be shortened to seven innings by mutual decision.

Clubs must notify MLB of any game length modifications by 5 p.m. ET the day before the game.

“It’s just going to be communication between the managers. It’s all new to us, but it should be pretty seamless once we get into it,” Bell said. “I’ve already been in touch with Tito [Francona] with the Indians for our game on the 28th. I think we’ll wait until we get a little bit closer to confirm the exact amount of innings.

"It’ll be important and pretty easy to work together with teams. You want to cooperate, and we have the other option playing 'B' games or playing intrasquad games, so we can be pretty flexible. We’re all in the same boat.”