Suárez 'very happy' at SS: 'You don't forget'

March 17th, 2021

Sometimes the “best shape of his life” Spring Training story is cliché fodder. That definitely proved not to be the case for the Reds and .

On Tuesday vs. the Rockies, manager David Bell made the move that could shake up the look of Cincinnati’s infield in 2021 and beyond. Normally the third baseman, Suárez started at his former position -- shortstop. , signed last year to be the second baseman, moved back to his old spot at third base. Prospect , who has performed his way into getting serious consideration to make the team, played second base.

“I feel very happy right now. I've been thinking about that for all my Spring Training so far,” the usually cheerful Suárez said before the game. “The day is today, and I feel so good. I feel so grateful for the opportunity to be back playing shortstop.”

During an 11-7 Reds loss to Colorado, Suárez was 0-for-3 at the plate with three strikeouts. On a fourth-inning Allen Trejo ground ball in the hole to his back hand, Suárez couldn’t come up with the ball and was charged with an error. Later in the fourth, Suárez fielded Sam Hilliard’s grounder and made a nice fielder’s choice throw home for the second out.

“He makes the plays he needs to make and he’s going make some good plays when he needs to,” Moustakas said. “For right now for him, getting comfortable over there, getting repetitions and playing shortstop in the game is going to be the most important thing for him. Obviously the more he does it, the better he’s going to feel.”

Suárez, 29, made 95 starts at shortstop for the Reds in 2015, but was moved to third base before the following season when Todd Frazier was traded. At third base, Suárez developed into an All-Star by 2018 as he slugged 34 home runs that season with a career-high 104 RBIs and a 136 OPS+. In ’19, he hit 49 homers with 103 RBIs and a 132 OPS+.

In recent weeks, Suárez has been working out on the back fields at shortstop with coaches Freddie Benavides and Delino DeShields.

“They watched me, and they said, 'Wow, you still have the moves.' It's like riding a bike, you don't forget how to do it,” Suárez said. “I feel like a baby with a new toy.”

Bell wasn’t ready to commit to the change for the regular season, but the consideration will be serious.

“It’s not a tryout by any means. We know who he is,” Bell said. “We wouldn’t be doing this if we weren’t confident that he could do it. I think after two weeks, we’ll just have to decide after seeing him at game speed, does it make sense for our team? Does it make sense for our infield? The entire makeup of our roster, does it make sense? There is a bigger discussion, but the only way to get to that point is to see him play in the games.”

Unhappy with his 2020 performance, Suárez was more determined to come to camp leaner. He dropped 15 pounds by cutting out beer, arepas and rice, and his body responded well in camp, as he had better mobility and showed more range and agility.

Unable to fill the shortstop vacancy in the offseason, the Reds had competition among Kyle Farmer, José Garcia, Dee Strange-Gordon, Alex Blandino and Kyle Holder. While the club was pleased with how that was going, Suárez’s weight loss sparked thoughts of making the change.

“When I started working so hard on my body, I started thinking about playing shortstop again,” said Suárez, who batted .202/.312/.470 with 15 home runs, 38 RBIs and a 102 OPS+ in 2020. “I never thought they were going to take it serious. I just came in here into Spring Training ready, I didn't even ask to play shortstop, I just showed everybody that I can still play shortstop.”

Like Suárez, Moustakas gets to return to a familiar spot. Over the first nine seasons of his big league career with the Royals and Brewers, he played 1,042 games at third base.

When he signed a four-year, $64 million contract to join the Reds for the 2020 season, Moustakas agreed to move to second base with Suárez the incumbent at third base.

“We know who these guys are,” Bell said. “We know Mike Moustakas can play third base. We know Geno can play short or we wouldn’t do it.”

If India makes the team, the new-look infield can be a plus for the club offensively, after it finished at the bottom of the Majors in several categories.

“It opens opportunity for several guys. I don’t think it would have been as much of a consideration for us if there wasn’t real benefit to it,” Bell said. “Infield defense is really important to us, but so is the offense.

“It’s not likely to be a situation where [Suárez is] switching positions on a night-to-night basis. I say that now, but we hold the right to change our mind and kind of just see where we are after two weeks. I think the big thing for us, which we’re really lucky and grateful for, is our players are all bought into making this a possibility. Their willingness to move around, their willingness to just buy into helping our team any way they possibly can, that’s made this possible. We’ll make the most of that for the next couple of weeks. We’ll try to have some certainty going into Opening Day.”