CINCINNATI -- Players never forget their first Opening Day in the Majors, but sometimes, it feels just as sweet for a veteran who had to claw his way onto a roster.
Infielders Christian Colón and Matt Davidson did just that as the Reds made the finishing touches to their 30-man Opening Day roster by adding the two players on Friday. Following Wednesday’s exhibition game vs. the Tigers, manager David Bell and general manager Nick Krall delivered the news to Colón.
“Just started crying,” Colón said before Friday’s season opener. “I put a lot of work into getting to the big leagues and being able to be a part of a team like this. Special people around here, I’ve always said that. I was very excited. I called my family -- my mom and dad, wife, kids. Everybody was crying. It was a special moment and one that I’ll always remember."
To clear space on the 40-man roster, pitchers Justin Shafer and Josh D. Smith were designated for assignment.
Colón and Davidson will join Josh VanMeter as backup infielders on Cincinnati’s bench. Utility player Kyle Farmer will also serve as a reserve infielder and third catcher.
“We knew a lot about Matt coming into camp, but he just proved and showed what we were hoping to get, and that's that he can hit,” Bell said. “He has power, and particularly he really does damage against left-handed pitching, which is a great fit on our team. He showed that he can defend.
“I think the best way to describe Christian Colón is everyone in this clubhouse sees him as a winner. Everyone has a tremendous amount of respect for him as a person and a player. He's very unselfish, cares about people, makes everyone around him better. This guy's been a good player for a long time. He's been on championship teams.”
Davidson, 29, signed a Minor League deal with the Reds on Jan. 2. He plays first base, third base and could see time as the designated hitter. Last season with the Rangers' Triple-A Nashville affiliate, he batted .264/.339/.527 with 33 home runs and 101 RBIs. In 2017 for the White Sox, Davidson hit a career-high 26 homers with 68 RBIs.
“It’s really hard, as a player -- a guy who has been up and down, non-tendered and other stuff, whatever,” said Davidson, who was in Friday's lineup as the designated hitter. “Now, I’m starting Opening Day and I’m pretty excited about it. It’s great to be a part of this great team.”
Colón, 31, spent last season primarily with Triple-A Louisville, but played eight big league games for the Reds as a September callup, going 3-for-6 at the plate. He batted .300/.372/.443 with 10 homers and 70 RBIs in 136 games for Louisville.
During Spring Training and Summer Camp, Colón played every infield position. The former Royal won a World Series in 2015 with Kansas City and he delivered the go-ahead run in the 12th inning of the Series-clinching Game 5 win against the Mets.
But Colón spent 49 games of 2017 back in Triple-A and all of ’18.
“I really had to push through some tough moments,” Colón said. “I was a part of some really good teams for a long time. I felt like I didn’t really understand what I really was going through at those times. It’s the saying that you don’t really appreciate something until you lose it and you have to fight for it back. I learned that, and I continued to apply that.”
Facing a left-handed starter in Detroit's Matthew Boyd, the Reds featured a largely right-handed batting order on Friday. That meant lefty hitters like Shogo Akiyama, Jesse Winker and Tucker Barnhart did not start. Bell, who used 140 lineup combos with his everyday eight last season, expects to keep exploiting the best matchups on a given day. Players who will be asked to sit on certain days have bought in, he said.
“This isn't because of me … this team and the clubhouse has evolved quite a bit and become a very close team with a united focus of doing what it takes to win,” Bell said. “They like each other. They enjoy being around each other, which you never know with that. There's no way to predict that. And they do. We've done the work. We've prepared. Our players have prepared like champions and now it's time to play.”
Schebler to Atlanta
The Reds traded outfielder Scott Schebler to the Braves for cash considerations. Schebler had been designated for assignment on Sunday.
Shogo Akiyama is expected to get his first start as a member of the Reds when their series with the Tigers continues at 5:10 p.m. ET on Saturday at Great American Ball Park. Luis Castillo will be making his 2020 debut on the mound for Cincinnati against Detroit's Ivan Nova. Watch the action live on MLB.TV.