Spring Breakout a team-building exercise

March 17th, 2024

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- They may be playing at different levels in the Reds system, but the players chosen to take part in the two games in the inaugural Spring Breakout jelled like they've been on one team for more than a little while.

Players stood on the top step of the dugout together, cheered for one another, talked about pitchers and tried to learn from one another.

“Look, it’s all about the connection that we all have and the empathy we have amongst each other," catcher said via translator Jorge Merlos. "That’s what is going to get us through and create that chemistry.”

On Saturday, Reds prospects did not fare as well as they did in the first Spring Breakout game, as they were handed a 6-2 loss by the Guardians prospects at Goodyear Ballpark. They were 4-1 winners on Thursday vs. Rangers prospects.

Here are three things of note from Saturday:

1. Stewart demonstrates versatility
, ranked by MLB Pipeline as Cincinnati's No. 6 prospect, started at second base on Thursday. On Saturday, he started at his natural position of third base.

Stewart, who was taken 32nd overall by the Reds in the 2022 MLB Draft out of Westminster Christian High School in Miami, Fla., has had a reputation for being a bat-first prospect.

“It’s hard, because everybody has their opinion and I can’t change their opinion," Stewart said. "I don’t think I’ve given anybody a reason to say I can’t play defense.

“It’s always cool to be a little under the radar. There’s always a chip on my shoulder. Ever since I was coming out of the Draft, there was always people saying stuff about this and that. And then when I come here and play in this, I love that. It fuels me.”

Stewart, 20, batted .275 with an .811 OPS in 117 games combined last season at Single-A Daytona and High-A Dayton. He led the organization in walks (84) and was seventh with 117 hits.

“The biggest thing for me is availability," said Stewart, who reached on a throwing error Saturday in the first inning. "I tried to be on the field every game last year and was able to do so. I feel like I know what I’m going to do at the plate. I know what I can do on the field. I put in the work. I get my stuff done. I’m not worried about what I can do.”

Stewart has played three Cactus League games this spring with the big leaguers, with two hits in eight at-bats.

In Miami, Stewart has been mentored by Padres superstar Manny Machado and former Reds first baseman Yonder Alonso. It was Alonso who put Stewart in touch with Machado.

2. Duno back to catching
The 18-year-old Duno, the Reds' No. 10 prospect, did not get to play behind the plate last year in the Dominican Summer League because of a ruptured ligament in his right elbow. He was limited to being the designated hitter and batted .303 with a .944 OPS and six homers in 45 games.

“It was very frustrating at the beginning. I had to live through that," Duno said.

Duno, who went 0-for-2 over the two Breakout games, used his extra time on the bench last season to learn from watching other catchers in games.

“I think it’s everything the other catchers were able to do, where they’re setting up and things like that," he said. "That will help me out.”

3. Go-ahead hits
Twice, Reds hitters were able to break up a tie game with base hits. In the bottom of the first inning with no score, catcher Mat Nelson hit a two-out single up the middle that drove in Stewart.

In the bottom of the second, with game even at 1-1, delivered with an double down the right-field line that brought home Jay Allen II.