CES: It's the acronym of the Cactus League

Christian Encarnacion-Strand gets another hit, leaving his spring average at .600

March 9th, 2023

PEORIA, Ariz. -- As he bids to land an Opening Day roster spot in the big leagues, Reds prospect continues to make his mark in Cactus League games.

Encarnacion-Strand, who started again at first base, was 1-for-3 with a triple in Cincinnati's 10-9 victory over the Padres on Wednesday afternoon. The 23-year-old non-roster invitee is batting .600 (12-for-20) with three home runs and 10 RBIs in his nine games.

In the bottom of the second inning as San Diego led, 2-0, Preston Tucker lifted a high fly ball to short right field. As right fielder  ran in, second baseman and Encarnacion-Strand ran back on the ball. As multiple players called for the ball, it landed on the grass for a double.

Encarnacion-Strand retrieved the ball and compounded the situation by heaving the ball past the cutoff man and through the infield. Tucker took third base on the throwing error, but pitcher escaped without another run crossing in the inning.

In the top of the third inning with one out against Padres pitcher Brent Honeywell Jr., Encarnacion-Strand scorched a line drive to center field that got past Trent Grisham. He hustled around second base and slid into third base ahead of the throw for the triple. 

"He’s working so hard," Reds manager David Bell said after the game. "He’s somewhat learning a new position at first base. He’s swinging the bat great. He might be tired. He’s working a lot. He has been on base a lot."

In the fifth inning, Encarnacion-Strand nearly hit a homer with a drive to center field before it was caught at the warning track. He was the only non-roster invitee to start in a lineup that had several regulars.

Ranked as Cincinnati's No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Encarnacion-Strand was acquired in the Aug. 2 trade that sent pitcher Tyler Mahle to the Twins. He leads the Reds this spring in hits, homers, RBIs and total bases (24).

The Reds are giving Encarnacion-Strand a long look, especially with first baseman rehabbing from left shoulder surgery without a timetable for when he might be ready. The team has been impressed not only by Encarnacion-Strand’s raw power, but his mature approach and the ability to make adjustments in different counts. 

Encarnacion-Strand, who has not played above Double-A, was a third baseman in college and played there mostly for Minnesota as a professional. Cincinnati has been having him play mostly first base in camp.

"He hasn’t had a ton of plays over there. With his work on the back fields and things like that, he’s doing great," Bell said before the game. "He’s also doing a lot of work at third base. First base is a little bit newer to him so he’ll probably do a little bit more work. But [Tuesday], he stayed back and worked a little bit more at third base. You’ll get to see him there, also.”