Steer working on defense amid third-base battle
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Competing to be the Reds’ everyday third baseman, Spencer Steer knows he needs to clean it up defensively.
Steer, the Reds’ No. 5 prospect, came to camp as the favorite to land the job, but his mistakes have been noticeable in the field. He has been charged with four errors in 12 games this spring for an .800 fielding percentage.
“It’s been a tough stretch," Steer said. "I think everyone goes through a tough stretch here and there. I can’t say it’s mental or a lack of preparation. I feel like it’s just a rough patch that I’m trying to fight through.”
Steer was at an infield practice area at the team complex in Goodyear on Saturday morning taking hard grounders hit by bench coach Freddie Benavides. On most days, the 25-year-old is working with infield coach Jeff Pickler.
At the plate, Steer has been stronger and is batting .267 with an .853 OPS, one home run, four doubles and six RBIs in 12 games. He did not play in Saturday’s 7-1 win over Oakland.
“Offensively, I feel like I’m in a pretty good spot right now. I feel like I’m consistently having good at-bats and hitting the ball hard, which is what I’m striving for," Steer said. "On defense, I’m obviously disappointed with the way it’s gone so far. I feel like my preparation has been good, and I’m doing all the right things outside of games. I’m trusting the work I’m putting in with Pick, and I have nothing but confidence that I can play third at a high level. I am staying with it, staying patient and looking to finish camp strong defensively.”
Besides Steer, the Reds are looking at non-roster invite Jason Vosler and utility player Chad Pinder to play third base. Another corner infield prospect, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, was among camp cuts earlier this week.
Reds manager David Bell has noted that no decisions have been made yet about the position.
"[Steer is] getting every opportunity to play over there. We love having him," Bell said.
What Bell and the club would like to see is the hard work Steer has put in to show up in games.
"He’s had a lot of different kinds of plays, which is good. He is still trying to settle in at third," Bell said. "He has all the ability to be able to play there. He has plenty of arm. He has good hands. He moves well. He’s played over there quite a bit, so he just continues to keep working at it and hopefully get enough plays in Spring Training where he can feel ready, like he’s made them all."
The Reds acquired Steer, along with Encarnacion-Strand, in the Aug. 2 trade that sent starting pitcher Tyler Mahle to the Twins.
Steer made his big league debut on Sept. 2 vs. the Rockies and went 2-for-2 with a home run, reached safely four times and scored the game-winning run. He can play every infield position, but the majority of his college and pro experience has been at third base. To Steer, it comes down to trusting his ability -- which he does.
"I’ve played third base at a high level in the past, and know that I can do it," he said. "Making it simple, just going out there and making plays and not thinking about anything else but that. When the ball is hit to you, make the play.”