GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Last offseason, Eugenio Suarez found out he was going to be the Reds third baseman Dec. 16. That’s the day the club traded Todd Frazier.
It was only then that Suarez began preparing to play third. His Opening Day start was his first ever at third base. Understandably, Suarez had a few bumps in the road defensively.
“It was a huge transition short to third,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “You’re right on top of the hitter at third base. There’s a lot different responsibilities. He handled that well.”
Suarez, 25, thinks he’s over that this spring. He led major league third basemen with 23 errors, but 14 of those came before the All-Star break.
“I’m a lot more comfortable,” Suarez said. “This is a new year. I changed my plan to play third base. I feel better right now with fielding. My comfort (level) is higher than last year.”
Suarez’s bat is what got him in the lineup in the first place. That is a work in progress as well. Suarez hit .248 with 21 home runs and 70 RBI, but he hit some rough patches.
“I think he’s going to be a sensational player,” Price said. “He’s already a solid player. I think he’s going to be a sensational player as he continues to mature as a hitter. I think his athleticism will allow him to play third base and play it at a high level. But, as a hitter, you’ve got to get beat up a little to know how to handle it the next time.
“I think he’ll be more prepared to pull himself out of the struggle than he was last year.”
“I’m working on my position, so I’m more comfortable,” Suarez said. “I let the ball come to me. That’s what I’m working on. With my mechanics, I try to be on time all the time. When the ball comes to you, you’ve got to be quick.”
Suarez doesn’t see himself as a .248 hitter.
“At the end of the season, I felt great,” he said. “I know I’m a good hitter. I know I have to hit more than that. At the end of the season, I don’t care about the numbers. You try to learn and be better.”
The month of May killed Suarez’s numbers overall. He hit .173 with 37 strikeouts in 98 at-bats in the May after hitting .270 in April.
“As an offensive player, he had such great start, then he was getting frustrated,” Price said. “He had a lot of home runs, a lot of run-producing hits. Then when he began to struggle, he tried to swing his way out of it. He lost his plate discipline.”
Suarez agreed with that.
“I try too much,” he said. “My mind, I’m thinking too much. When you think too much at home plate, you’re in trouble. You just have to see the ball, hit the ball.”
That, of course, is a saying made famous in Reds circles by Hall of Famer Tony Perez. Suarez, a native of Venezuela, is similar to Perez is that he’s outgoing and mixes it up with teammates, needling them in English.
The Reds have 12 players on the 40-man roster whose first language is Spanish. Many of them rely on translator Julio Morillo for interviews. Not Suarez.
“I like the language,” he said. “I like to speak it with these guys and the coaches. I don’t care if I’m wrong or not. I just to try to be better. I speak it more and more and more. It’s very important to us to speak English. I don’t like to use a translator. I live here in the United States.”