Cincinnati Reds: Slugger Suarez focused on improving defense

Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez fields a ball against the Nationals on Saturday, March 31, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

caption arrowCaption
Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez fields a ball against the Nationals on Saturday, March 31, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

The Cincinnati Reds Eugenio Suarez has established himself as one of the top third baseman in the National League.

Coming off his best offensive season and his first All-Star appearance, the former shortstop is focused on improving his defense this spring after a disappointing 2018 season in the field.

»RELATED: Reds add infielder to shore up bench

Suarez set career highs with a .283 average, 34 home runs, 104 RBIs, a .366 on-base-percentage and a .526 slugging percentage last season. He played in 143 games, despite missing two weeks with a broken thumb. Defensively, he took a step back with 19 errors after making just nine in 2017.

“I want to be better on defense,” Suarez said. “I’m putting all my work on defense this year. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing on offense.”

Suarez moved from shortstop to third base after the 2015 season in which he made 95 starts at shortstop filling in for injured Zack Cozart.

»RELATED: Is there room in Reds crowded outfield for Matt Kemp?

The Reds moved Suarez to third base to get his bat in the lineup when Cozart returned. The transition was rough at first.

Suarez made a Major League-high 23 errors but belted 21 home runs while hitting .248 in 159 games. He improved across the board in 2017, hitting .260 while setting career highs with 28 home runs and 82 RBI in 156 games. He led the National League in fielding percentage with .976. He was drawing favorable comparisons to six-time Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies.

Rookie Reds manager David Bell is eager to see Suarez.

“I’ve seen him enough to know he has great hands and has the feet,” Bell said. “I’m excited to watch him play. He will continue to get better and better at third base. He had a break out year offensively.”

»RELATED: ‘The word rebuild should be out the door’

Suarez is ready to go.

“I am putting my body together to play,” Suarez said. “My body feels great. I’m mentally strong. We put in a lot of hard work to get ready.”

The best offensive performance of Suarez’ career led to a bonus. He invited on the Major League players tour of Japan to play an All-Star team from Nippon Professional Baseball. They played six games on a 15-day tour.

Suarez got extra work in against good competition.

“I was so happy to be part of that trip to Japan,” Suarez said. “It was fun. We spent five days in Hawaii then flew to Japan. The people were great. My wife and my daughter had a great experience.”

They were in three cities, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagoya.

“We travel a lot here in the United States but Japan was impressive,” Suarez said. “They know how to play this game. They take it serious. They want to beat us.”


MONDAY’S GAME

Reds at Mariners, 3:10 p.m., 1360

About the Author