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Moustakas adapts to new team, position

@m_sheldon
February 17, 2020

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- New Reds second baseman Mike Moustakas was the first free agent the club signed during the offseason, and he was one of the first star players in the Majors to choose a team. Moustakas was pretty pleased that Cincinnati didn’t end its upgrades with his addition. “When

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- New Reds second baseman Mike Moustakas was the first free agent the club signed during the offseason, and he was one of the first star players in the Majors to choose a team. Moustakas was pretty pleased that Cincinnati didn’t end its upgrades with his addition.

“When I signed here, they said they weren’t done doing what they were going to do. Obviously, they weren’t lying,” Moustakas said on Monday. “To be the first one to sign and to have a couple of other guys follow up with that, and already the pieces that we already have in place here, it’s pretty awesome.”

Moustakas, who signed a four-year, $64 million contract on Dec. 5, was part of a nearly $166 million signing spree over the winter that also included Nick Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama, Wade Miley and Pedro Strop.

A three-time All-Star, Moustakas batted .254/.329/.516 last season with 35 home runs and 87 RBIs in 143 games for Milwaukee. His credentials for his new team -- in terms of offense and leadership -- are significant. He has been lauded in Kansas City (two World Series appearances and one title) and Milwaukee for his good clubhouse presence.

On Monday morning, Moustakas was holding court by his locker and chatting with several teammates, including Joey Votto and Nick Senzel, while getting chuckles from the group.

Why the Moustakas second-base risk might work

“Everyone in this organization is amazing, treated me well since the first day I signed,” Moustakas said. “Ever since then, it’s been awesome here. I’ve had a couple of days here already, so it’s been good getting to know the guys a little bit and getting my feel around Spring Training. It’s been fun so far.”

Less of a known factor, however, is how Moustakas will fare as a full-time second baseman. He has logged 1,042 career games at third base and 47 at second base -- all last season. Milwaukee re-signed him before the 2019 season to play second base, and he made 40 starts. But because third baseman Travis Shaw was demoted and second-base prospect Keston Hiura was promoted, Moustakas was shifted back to his old position.

To help Moustakas get more comfortable at second base, Reds first-base/infield coach Delino DeShields will be working with him the most.

“Delino was an outstanding second baseman; he played there a long time. Moose is in good hands,” Reds manager David Bell said.

“It helps he had the experience he had last year. If you can play third base like the way he can, I'm convinced it can be a little bit easier transition going to second as opposed to going the other way. The reactions and the things at third base are different. You have more time at second base. It'll be getting used to the positioning, getting used to the footwork around the base. Other than that, he's ready to go.”

The sample size at second base for Moustakas is small, although he didn’t fare poorly. He had an overall outs above average of zero but was +2 when playing second base. There was just one error in 151 total chances.

“Honestly, I felt comfortable with mostly everything,” Moustakas said. “Honestly, [Brewers manager Craig] Counsell said it last year, ‘This guy needs to go out there and make mistakes at second base,’ so I can learn from them. That’s something I wanted to do in spring. I played a lot of games in Spring Training. I made some mistakes.

“Especially now with positioning-wise, shifts and all that good stuff, there are going to be times where I’m going to be in the right spot and there are times I’m not going to be in the right spot. But that’s something I’m going to be learning throughout all of spring and I need to work on. I’m pretty excited for that.”

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.