Notes: Suárez, player dev praise, Morgan

February 24th, 2021

broke into the Major Leagues as a shortstop, and the Reds have a hole to fill at that position, but he will likely be staying put at third base. Manager David Bell determined as much even though he’s noticed at Spring Training that Suárez slimmed down over the offseason and has more mobility.

“I've seen him play a lot of short over the last couple of years -- when you look at where he plays on the shift a lot against a lot of the left-handed hitters we've faced, he's basically playing the shortstop position,” Bell said on Tuesday. “We know he could play there. There haven't been any serious discussions about it yet. We'll never rule anything out. You're always open-minded, but right now we're just letting him get acclimated to Spring Training and settle in. He's been a really good third baseman for a long time.

“I do think the better shape he's in, he's going to move even better at third base -- especially at that position, it's such a reaction position, that I think being lighter on his feet is really going to help him over there.”

Suárez, 29, was a 2018 All-Star and has become one of the game’s top third basemen since moving from shortstop to the corner spot in 2016. In the years since, he has bulked up his 5-foot-11 frame and was listed last season at 213 pounds.

“Clearly he's in really good shape -- I just think it'll help him feel better, help his energy, will extend his career,” Bell said. “A lot of the benefits will show up later. I do think it'll help him. I think it'll help him play better because I think he's going to feel better. He's worked really hard.”

In 2019, Suárez slugged a career-high 49 home runs while batting .271/.358/.572 with 103 RBIs. Like many Reds hitters, he struggled in ’20, especially early on, when he batted .118 with two homers and 25 strikeouts in 82 plate appearances over the first 20 games.

Suárez rallied to bat .246 with 13 homers over his remaining 37 games. Bell wasn’t concerned that less weight would mean less power.

“There's no proof that leads me to believe that he'll have any less power,” Bell said. “If anything, he'll be stronger, because he's in great shape and he's not any weaker. I do believe he's stronger.”

Antone praises player development
In a Twitter thread he posted on Tuesday, Reds pitcher remarked how much the organization’s player development system has improved since he was a fifth-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft.

Antone noted that the club invested in the technology side of the game for its Minor Leaguers but also brought in people who understand it to teach the players. Ahead of last season, Cincinnati hired Driveline Baseball founder Kyle Boddy to be director of pitching. Eric Jagers, who also arrived from Driveline last year, was promoted to assistant pitching coach for this season.

“Every year there are new faces on the team, and old teammates go to different teams and you begin to hear how other organizations do things,” Antone said. “A lot of players are begging to be with the Reds because of our player development. Just looking back on my own Minor League career I can say that I’m not sure if I would have made it to the big leagues if it wasn’t for people like [Jagers, Boddy] and many others.”

Bell was encouraged to hear about Antone’s praise.

“To hear our players and to know that they’re excited about everything that’s happening, that’s the whole point of what we do,” Bell said. “That’s why we’re here. There’s so many areas throughout the organization that have grown. We’ve brought in some new people. There’s been great people in this organization for a long time. But as we know, the game keeps changing. I think even people that have been here for a long time have been amazing as far as how they’ve listened and continued to grow and find ways to get better. It’s a great mix, really well balanced.”

Reds honor Morgan with memorial patch
Reds uniformed personnel will have a new black patch featured on their right sleeves. It has a No. 8 to honor the late , who died in October. A member of the Big Red Machine dynasty clubs of the 1970s and a member of the Hall of Fame, Morgan had his No. 8 retired by the club in 1998.

“It shows he’s a major part of the organization and the game,” Bell said. “Just a big contributor in so many ways throughout his lifetime. It’s a real honor to be able to wear a patch. It’s going to mean a lot to me and to everyone on our team. Obviously he’s missed, but it’s a great way to recognize him, and he’ll be with us throughout the season.”