De La Cruz, Encarnacion-Strand among Reds' latest cuts
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Considered to have long-shot bids of making the team entering Spring Training, Reds top prospect Elly De La Cruz and No. 7 prospect Christian Encarnacion-Strand did a lot of impressive things at their first big league camp. However, both players were among the latest round of cuts on Tuesday.
Encarnacion-Strand was reassigned to the Minor League camp along with infielder Matt McLain, while De La Cruz and relievers Ricky Karcher and Casey Legumina were optioned to Triple-A Louisville.
A natural third baseman, Encarnacion-Strand got a long look as a potential option at first base and, entering Tuesday, is Cincinnati’s leader this spring in hits (15), home runs (4), RBIs (13) and OPS (1.748) as he batted .577 in 12 games. The club remains very high on his raw power and mature hitting approach.
“First of all, he did everything right. He had a great spring,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He didn’t show us anything we didn’t know. But every now and then, I think you can show yourself what you’re capable of and having a spring like that in a Major League camp can go a long way. It was a very successful camp for Christian. But really, the determination is today isn’t the right time for him to be in the big leagues. At this point, there’s still little things he knows he needs to work on.
“He needs to be patient but not too patient. Just work as hard as he can to get back here. I see no reason why it couldn’t happen really quick for him to be here.”
The Reds acquired Encarnacion-Strand and third baseman Spencer Steer in the Aug. 2 trade that sent pitcher Tyler Mahle to the Twins.
Encarnacion-Strand is expected to get more games in the Minors at first base, where he had some difficulty at times this spring.
“He just needs a little bit more experience playing over there,” Bell said. “Not a lot, he has the actions and has what it takes. Sometimes, there’s no substitute for having that game experience.”
Encarnacion-Strand, 23, hit 32 homers with 114 RBIs last season at the High-A and Double-A levels. But despite having played only 48 games with 208 plate appearances at Double-A, he looked like he could handle himself against Major League pitchers and help the club.
Why send him out?
“It’s a good question. We have a lot of experience and expertise to know what to look at, there’s factors that nobody can know,” Bell said. “I’m around these players every day. I have conversations with them. Christian impressed in every way he possibly can. He’s very, very close. Today wasn’t the day.”
A 21-year-old shortstop, De La Cruz is ranked No. 10 overall by MLB Pipeline. He batted .200 with one homer, two triples and five RBIs in 12 Cactus League games. Flashes of what makes him a highly coveted young player were on display, especially his speed on the bases and defensive skills.
De La Cruz, who had 47 games and 207 plate appearances at Double-A in 2022, was not expected to beat out Jose Barrero or Kevin Newman for the starting shortstop job.
“He’s fun to watch and be around,” Bell said. “He makes the team better by his personality and the way he plays the game. He does a lot of things on the field that are very special. He doesn’t have to change a thing. He just needs to work as hard as he can, stay focused, play hard and it’s just a matter of time.”
Cincinnati has 49 players remaining in camp.
More from Reds camp on Tuesday
• Scheduled Opening Day starter Hunter Greene pitched five innings in a 5-3 win over the Royals, allowing two runs (one earned), two hits and no walks with seven strikeouts and two hit batters. Greene, who struck out five of his last seven batters, surrendered a Samad Taylor homer to right-center field in the fifth but looked sharper as he went deeper in the game.
“I think I’m fulfilling the meaning of Spring Training right now,” Greene said following his fourth Cactus League start. “Being able to hone in my pitches, feel good mechanically and all that good stuff. Definitely feeling like I’m finding it. It’s getting there. I’m making the right steps.”
• Rotation candidate Luke Weaver is still listed to face the A’s on Saturday after he exited early from a Minor League game Monday because of a sore right forearm. Bell noted the start was in question, though.
“Early indications are that it’s minor,” Bell said. “We’re going to have to see each day how he responds.”