PHOENIX – The Cincinnati Reds rewrote record books with their historic offensive performance in the first eight games of the season, but their clean-up hitter hopes that he’s just starting to hit his stride.
Eugenio Suárez was one of the few players who didn’t have a hot start at the plate. Before this weekend’s series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he was 2-for-18 with a homer, six walks and nine strikeouts.
“I’ve been trying to do too much,” Suárez said. “I’ve been thinking too much. Something that I didn’t control. I was out of my mind thinking too much at the plate. I’m losing my approach. But (Friday) was better for me.”
Suárez arrived at spring training 15 pounds lighter than the end of last season. The Reds saw it as an opportunity to move him to shortstop for the first time in six years, but Suárez lost the weight because he was disappointed in his 2020 season.
He had a career-low .202 batting average and .312 on-base percentage. He still hit 15 homers, which ranked 15th in the Majors, but it was a step back offensively after he emerged as one of the league’s top hitters.
During his first interview in spring training, he said, “I’m not a .200 hitter,” and that he was confident his weight loss wouldn’t affect his power.
“I’ve been working so hard on my mechanics, my approach, my stride and everything,” Suárez said before Saturday’s game. “I feel like (Friday) was better and I hope today gets better. I want to hit. I just want to help my team like I always say. I know that my moment is coming soon. I will play with passion and help my team. Just be me every time.”
His moment may have arrived this weekend. He scorched a double to the center-field wall and hit a sacrifice fly in Friday’s 6-5 win over the D-Backs. On Saturday, he thumped an opposite-field homer to right-center in the team’s 8-3 loss.
"It’s just a matter of time for Geno," Reds manager David Bell said. "He’s a good hitter, a good player. We’re still real early in the season. Definitely some good signs for him."
Suárez spent a lot of time at the end of spring training focused on his defense. He wants to prove to everyone that he can handle shortstop, though the Reds are committed to playing him there this year.
It would be understandable if that played a part in his slow start, but Suárez said that’s not the case.
“It’s not about defense,” Suárez said. “My last few games, I’ve been thinking about mechanics during my at-bats. You can’t think about it. When you’re hitting, you have to see the ball and hit the ball like I always say. But I’ve been thinking about where my hands are, ‘are my hands here?’ My leg kick and all that stuff. When I start thinking like that, I don’t have time to compete. You can see that.
“I’m trying to be me again and enjoy the game like I used to do it. I love this game. I play with passion. I don’t like to think too much. I will make it simple. That’s what I’m trying to do right now.”
It helps, of course, that the Reds opened the season with a 6-2 record. Suárez wants to contribute more run support, but he’s proud of the team’s success.
“When you’re winning, everything is fine,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. You’ve got to win. Even if you don’t get a hit, even if you don’t hit a homer, right now I’m not at my best, you see the boys they play hard. We’re winning the games. That’s all that matters to us. I’m happy for that. I’m not selfish. I play for my team. I’m so happy if somebody does something good.”
Known for his “good vibes only” mantra, Suárez said they’re playing beyond that now.
“It’s more than good vibes now,” Suárez said. “It’s very good vibes only.”