Why Elly isn't worried about his roster status

December 10th, 2023

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CINCINNATI -- As he works out in the Dominican Republic ahead of his sophomore season in the big leagues, isn't stressing about his roster status for 2024 amid a very crowded infield picture for the Reds.

"No, I’m not thinking that way," De La Cruz said on Dec. 1 at Redsfest, via translator Jorge Merlos. "I’m not saying I need to prove anything or I’m already on the team. It’s wherever the team needs me, and that’s where I’m going to play. I’m going out there to win games as much as possible. Whichever way they need me, I’m going to do that."

In October, before the Reds made any offseason moves, president of baseball operations Nick Krall conceded that it was possible for one of the club's rising stars to open next season at Triple-A Louisville.

"That’s going to be an option for some folks," Krall said at the time.

Since then, first baseman Joey Votto didn't have his $20 million club option exercised. But last week, according to sources, Cincinnati agreed to a three-year, $45 million contract with free-agent corner infielder Jeimer Candelario. That deal, which the Reds have not officially announced, is pending a physical this week.

Candelario, 30, would join a group that includes De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Jonathan India, Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Noelvi Marte. According to a source, infielder Spencer Steer should become the full-time right-handed-hitting corner outfielder that the club was seeking this offseason.

That leaves six infielders to rotate among five positions, including designated hitter. The Reds could either go that route or send somebody down to Louisville if they don't perform well enough at Spring Training or need more at-bats.

De La Cruz, who turns 22 on Jan. 11, was asked if he worried he might be the one to get sent down.

"For me, it doesn’t matter where I play. I just want to play," De La Cruz said. "I’m going to have fun wherever I have to go. I just want to play as much as possible.

"Of course, you don’t want it to happen."

Easily the most electric prospect to arrive to the Reds last season, De La Cruz batted .324 with an .887 OPS over his first 30 big league games after being called up on June 6. But his numbers plummeted in the second half, as he batted .191 with a .627 OPS over 68 games. Overall, he struck out 144 times over 427 plate appearances (33.7 percent).

The switch-hitting De La Cruz, who led the club with 35 steals, batted .256 with 11 home runs left-handed and .184 with two homers as a right-hander.

De La Cruz expressed his desire to play some winter ball, but he wasn't sure that was going to happen. In the meantime, he keeps working on his game.

"It’s just been small adjustments that we’ve been doing. It’s more about staying back in the box and looking for my pitches," De La Cruz said. "It’s really just not swinging at the pitches the pitchers want to throw and worrying about my pitches. That’s one thing I want to get better."