'Very vocal' Friedl intends to make more noise in '24

March 7th, 2024

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- ’s 2023 campaign was the breakout that both he and the Reds were hoping for. He was a vital piece to the club and its rise to contention.

But as good as the Reds’ center fielder was last season, his “never satisfied” approach to this spring is pushing him to be even better. Friedl is dedicated to refining himself in 2024 while trusting his approach.

“I’m going to continue to build off last year and stick to that same approach, same stance, same everything,” Friedl said. “Didn’t really change much.”

Last spring, Friedl was not only vying for a spot on Cincinnati's Opening Day roster, but to stick in the big leagues after struggling to do so in his first two seasons. This spring, it’s about working to take the next step in all facets of his game.

Friedl’s preparation hasn't gone unnoticed.

“The way he plays the game is how he conducts himself all day long,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He’s got a great way about him -- he has a great personality, he’s well rounded, he’s a great teammate. But he’s very serious and very determined, and he’s here on a mission every day to do his job to help us win a game.”

Though he went hitless against the Brewers in the Reds’ 2-0 split-squad loss on Wednesday afternoon at Goodyear Ballpark, Friedl’s consistency seemingly has carried over from last season. He has four hits in 16 at-bats and has found ways to create chaos on the basepaths, with three stolen bases and five runs through seven Cactus League games.

Friedl provided a reliable presence at the top of the Reds’ lineup in ’23, striking out just 90 times in 556 plate appearances across 138 games. He maintained a disciplined approach, posting an above-average chase rate of 24.6%, and rarely swung and missed in general, finishing with an exceptional 18.2% whiff rate.

In addition to his contact-first approach, Friedl also posted a career-high .467 slugging percentage and 18 home runs, with a large amount of his success coming against left-handed pitching. In 110 plate appearances against lefties, Friedl held a sterling .963 OPS.

Bell has noted how much work this spring Friedl has put into improving himself defensively in the outfield, as well as the rate at which he gets on base and his already elite bunting capabilities, even after leading MLB with 17 bunt hits last season. He’s “laser focused” on bettering himself as a player and a vocal leader within an exceedingly-young clubhouse.

If you ask Friedl, he’s always been that way.

“I’m a vocal guy,” Friedl said. “I’m sure if you ask anyone around -- I’m very vocal in the dugout, always standing. I can’t sit down during the game. I’m always standing or pacing somewhere. But that’s just how I’ve been my whole life. When I was playing 8U travel ball, I was the same way. That’s just something I’ve always been -- very vocal.

“That’s how I am and how I play, and that’s not going to change.”

With an electrifying young core featuring Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain and the club’s top prospect in the MLB Pipeline rankings, Noelvi Marte, among many others, Cincinnati has benefited greatly from Friedl’s presence in multiple ways. But Friedl, 28, is seemingly a part of the Reds’ youth movement that began to take hold last season, which makes his ability to lead even more impressive.

“We have several guys that just because of who they are, they’ve been able to lead in different ways,” Bell said. “TJ definitely does it in different ways. Mostly, at the top of the list, just how he plays the game every single day. It’s been very beneficial.

“If there is a perfect attitude toward playing this game, he definitely has it.”

It’s that attitude that can rub off on other players, something Friedl provides daily through the work he puts into his preparation. Should Friedl continue to carry himself in that manner, the Reds might follow suit.

“I think that’s how I’ve always played the game,” Friedl said. “I’ve always played the game hard-nosed. That’s how I was raised. That’s all I’ve really known how to play the game all the way through college, through the Minor Leagues. I’ve only known to play one way.

“Having a lot of guys on the team with those same characteristics -- one of the big things with this team is being relentless, being accountable, being authentic. Those are things that are engraved in us; that’s our identity.”