India finds his happy place, sees results follow

March 23rd, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Following a slow start to his spring, the contact made by Reds second baseman has been noticeably harder and louder. India, who has also been pulling the ball more frequently, indicated that hadn't been paying much attention.

“People have come up to me and said, ‘Oh, you’re getting hot.’ I think that’s just a mindset." India said on Wednesday ahead of the Reds’ 4-1 victory over the Padres. "What they see is what they want to see. I told myself this year, no matter how bad it gets or how good it gets, I will let my ability play. It’s going well enough.”

At the time he spoke, India was riding a streak of three straight multi-hit games (7-for-12 with one home run, six RBIs and four runs). That streak ended with a 1-for-4 outing against the Padres. India had a bunt single in the fifth inning, and a diving play in left field took a hit away from him in the second.

Even if India -- owner of a .316/.438/.500 slash line this spring in 16 games -- hasn't noticed his own recent success, the Reds have.

"He doesn't want to come out of the games. He's having a lot of fun playing right now," Reds manager David Bell said. "He's very physically ready, and he's mentally ready, too — he's locked in. He's focused. He knows what he needs to do.

“I think he's real comfortable with the routine he has every day to get himself ready. I think he just feels good physically. That's allowed him to play well in these games."

India noted that he made no plate adjustments over his spring, nor is he particularly seeing the ball better or having better timing. The improvements have been more on the mental side of his game, especially after consulting with the people he's close with at home.

“Nothing changed. I’m just playing the game," he said. “It’s part of the process. … I’m happy; that’s all that matters. Results will never get me down. Results are not what I’m looking for in this life anymore.”

If that's the case, what does India look for?

“Happiness, he replied. "As long as I’m happy in this game and I’m happy in the clubhouse and I’m happy with my teammates, that’s all I care about. The rest will take care of itself because I know my ability will take over.”

Cincinnati is expected to have India slotted in the leadoff spot again this season. The 26-year-old, who was the 2021 National League Rookie of the Year, endured an injury-riddled 2022 as he batted .249 with a .705 OPS, 10 home runs and 41 RBIs in 103 games. 

India, who batted 269 with an .835 OPS, 21 homers and 69 RBIs in '21, dealt with a right hamstring injury throughout the first couple of months of last year and a left shin hematoma from being hit by a pitch in August that bothered him the rest of the season. 

"I think, for nothing else, he is where he is right now because of last season and the year before," Bell said. "If anything, just really getting back to the core of who Jonathan India is in every way -- it's plenty good enough. It's a great player in this league, a great teammate, someone that really approaches the game the right way. He doesn't have to do anything else but be that guy."

India didn't feel any extra motivation to have a bounce-back season in '23.

"Unneeded and unwanted pressure," India said. "Why do I need to show people who I am if I know who I am? You guys have seen me play. You guys know who I am. I don’t need to prove anything. I’m going to play the way I play, and everything will take care of itself. That’s what I believe.

“I know people say I have to prove them wrong or it [2021] was a fluke. Maybe it wasn’t a fluke. Maybe it’s part of my adrenaline in the game. I don’t have any regrets.”

Worth noting
It wasn't an “A” lineup for the Padres, but Reds starting pitcher looked exceptional once again with 10 strikeouts and one hit allowed over six scoreless innings. Ashcraft, who threw only 66 pitches, induced eight groundouts. San Diego failed to hit a ball in the air against him. 

Over his last three starts and 12 1/3 innings, Ashcraft has given up one earned run and seven hits with no walks and 21 strikeouts. 

"Everything is just clicking, like I’ve been saying," Ashcraft said. "I feel like I’m in a great spot going into the season. I feel like I can throw everything right where I want it."