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Suarez connects for first spring homer

March 25, 2019

ATLANTA -- It's been a fairly slow spring for Reds third baseman Eugenio Suárez at the plate, but it appears he’s rounding into regular-season form at the perfect time. Just three days before Opening Day, Suarez launched his first home run of the spring in the Reds’ 8-5 loss to

ATLANTA -- It's been a fairly slow spring for Reds third baseman Eugenio Suárez at the plate, but it appears he’s rounding into regular-season form at the perfect time.

Just three days before Opening Day, Suarez launched his first home run of the spring in the Reds’ 8-5 loss to the Braves on Monday at SunTrust Park. And as he leapt in the air after rounding third, it was clear he was feeling great again.

Facing southpaw Jonny Venters in the third inning, Suarez took a first-pitch sinker over the plate for a strike. When Venters offered another sinker down the pipe, Suarez didn’t hesitate: He barreled the ball 439 feet to center field at a blistering 108.3 mph.

Suarez came into the game only hitting .217/.294/.283 with three extra-base hits -- all doubles -- in 46 Spring Training at-bats. It can be dangerous to take the small sample sizes from spring too seriously, but any power display at this point in the year is welcomed.

Regardless of spring stats, Suarez will be a key part of the Reds’ lineup as they push for a postseason spot. The 27-year-old hit a career-high 34 home runs last year while slashing .283/.366/.526.

“He had a plan all along,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He was trying to see more pitches early on and go deeper in the count and let the ball get a little deeper. It really paid off for him because his timing here over the last probably 10 days has been really good. It’s nice to have some results too, so that’s nice to see.”

Suarez had started the spring just 4-for-25 but has hit .280 in the last 10 days Bell referenced, which includes three extra-base hits in his last four games. This may be the last bit of serious playing time Suarez sees before Opening Day as well, since Bell said he would rest many of his starters on Tuesday since it’s a day game following a night game.

Stephenson struggles in roster audition
The Reds have 26 players left on their active roster, with left-hander Wandy Peralta and right-handers Robert Stephenson and Matt Wisler competing for the final two spots. Notably, Stephenson and Wisler are out of options and would have to pass through waivers to stay in the organization if they don’t make the cut.

Stephenson was the lone pitcher of the trio to see action on Monday, albeit to mixed results. He walked the leadoff hitter in the third and allowed two runs but settled down in the fourth, allowing just one single with a strikeout.

The Reds’ final roster decision is coming down to the last minute, but Bell stressed it wouldn’t be determined by how Stephenson or anyone else looked in any one outing.

“I don’t think that’s the best way to make a decision,” Bell said before the game. “That being said, it has come down to the last day, and that’s because we’re trying to make the best decision we possibly can, and it’s a difficult one. You never want to make a decision based on one day.”

Early departure for Roark
Reds starter Tanner Roark said the plan was for his final start of the spring to be on the shorter side -- he pitched at least five innings in his past two outings -- but Monday’s appearance went even shorter than expected.

The right-hander was not able to get out of the second inning when the Braves sent nine batters to the plate against him. Roark fell behind hitters and had to turn to fastballs more than he’d prefer, which the Atlanta offense knocked around. However, he was in high spirits after the game, thanks in part to supporters in the stands.

“My wife and three kids, we live 10 minutes away,” Roark said. “They have school tomorrow. Early departure for dad, so they took an early departure too.”

Up next
The Reds wrap up their spring slate on Tuesday at 1:10 p.m. ET with right-hander Anthony DeSclafani taking the mound against the Braves at SunTrust Park. DeSclafani, the Reds' No. 4 starter, has pitched at least five innings in each of his last two spring starts.