CES: Crushing Everything in Spring

Christian Encarnacion-Strand hits his fourth spring homer

March 11th, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- One of the Reds' questions was answered Thursday, when 23-year-old was named the Reds’ youngest Opening Day starting pitcher since 1980.

There remain numerous questions hovering around the team. Nothing is concrete, but young players like continue to make a case to make the Opening Day roster.

In the first inning of the Reds’ 6-5 victory over the D-backs on Friday night, Encarnacion-Strand smashed the first pitch he saw for a two-run home run to left field. The 23-year-old finished 3-for-3 and leads the Reds in home runs (four), RBIs (13), hits (15) and batting average (.625).

Encarnacion-Strand, who came into Spring Training as an under-the-radar non-roster invitee, was one of three players acquired in the deal that sent pitcher Tyler Mahle to Minnesota at the Trade Deadline last year. Drafted as a third baseman by the Twins in 2021, Encarnacion-Strand has transitioned to first base and could be a surprise to make the team, especially with longtime first baseman Joey Votto nursing an injury.

Encarnacion-Strand, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Reds' No. 7 prospect, has always shown power . In 2021 at Oklahoma State University, he tied for third in the Big 12 in home runs with 15. In 2022, he had 32 home runs between High-A and Double-A.

“He does a lot of things right and he's still a young hitter, so he's got a ways to go,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He’s just going to keep getting better, but he's just really mature and his approach is very balanced. He has power to all fields, so he doesn't have to rush out and can let the ball travel, which helps him make better decisions at the plate.”

Another young Reds player fighting for a starting spot is 24-year-old infielder . He hasn’t had much success in the Majors across parts of the past three seasons. After posting a .152 batting average with the Reds last year, Barrero focused on adjusting his swing. It seems to be working. He’s batting .273 this spring and had an RBI against the D-backs.

“We're focused on our team right now, but these guys are here showing what they can do,” Bell said. “They're trying to make the team. And if they don't, they're pretty close. It's exciting for now and for the future.”

Lodolo in as No. 2 starter
On Thursday, Bell also announced that left-hander  would follow Greene as the No. 2 starter. On Friday, Lodolo threw three innings and allowed three runs on five hits with five strikeouts. He said it was a step forward.

“I feel like my last couple of outings have been moving kind of slow,” Lodolo said. “Really hammered this week on moving fast, getting my arm moving, getting arm speed. I was able to do that tonight. It was a good step in that direction.”