GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Eugenio Suárez was playing in a swimming pool with his children at home in Pinecrest, Florida, and decided to dive into the shallow half.
The Cincinnati Reds third baseman hit the bottom of the pool and wound up with a shoulder injury that has set him back in spring training and left his availability uncertain for Opening Day.
“I tried to dive in headfirst,” Suárez said. “My hands hit first and then my shoulder felt like a pop.”
Suárez tore cartilage in his right shoulder and had surgery Jan. 28. For the start of spring training, Suárez was limited to conditioning work while his throwing shoulder healed.
He has progressed to taking infield practice, playing catch and hitting in the batting cage. It’s unclear how long it will be until he can play in a game.
“I feel better every day,” Suárez said.
The Reds are counting upon the 28-year-old to be a top contributor in an offense that was near the bottom of the NL in runs last season.
Suárez’s 49 homers last year were a record for an NL third baseman and for a player from Venezuela. He finished behind the Mets’ Pete Alonso for the home run lead.
Suárez had begun getting ready for the season in January when he hurt the shoulder, so the rest of his body is in good shape.
“I was working hard,” he said. “I already had three weeks working on my body. When the accident happened, it wasn’t as bad.”
Suárez came to camp ahead of other position players to recover from the injury.
“All the reports have been really positive,” manager David Bell said. “He kept his legs in shape. Once his shoulder is cleared, it will happen fast that he’s ready.”
The Reds’ emphasis in the offseason was upgrading the offense. They signed second baseman Matt Moustakas and outfielders Nick Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama, hoping that Suarez gets more chances to drive in runs.
“We want to provide more opportunities for the middle of our lineup to do some damage,” Bell said. “When we weren’t scoring a lot it was because we didn’t have enough chances.”
Castellanos has played third base and could fill in if needed. Suarez paid attention to the Reds’ moves as they try to end a streak of six straight losing seasons.
“I thought, ‘Wow, we have a good team this year,’” Suarez said.
NOTES: Castellanos returned to camp after staying home three days with the flu, but Bell sent him home again to get a couple days’ more rest. ... SS Freddy Galvis is getting at-bats as a designated hitter while a sore shoulder prevents him from playing the field. Bell is waiting until later this week to let him play shortstop. ... CF Nick Senzel remains in a throwing program as he recovers from shoulder surgery last September. Bell plans to use him as a designated hitter on March 12 against Seattle.