Versatility helping unheralded infielder’s push to make Reds roster

Waiver pickup is hitting .444 in Cactus League

The hitter leading the Cincinnati Reds in batting average this spring — among players with at least 10 at-bats — does not have a familiar name for Reds fans.

Max Schrock is a 26-year-old infielder from Raleigh, N.C., who was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 13th round out of the University of South Carolina in 2015. He made his big-league debut last season with the St. Louis Cardinals after four seasons in the minor leagues. The Chicago Cubs claimed him off waivers in October. The Reds then claimed him off waivers from the Cubs on Feb. 10.

This spring, Schrock has hit .440 (11 for 23) with three doubles in 11 games. He also has showed his versatility by appearing at third base, second base and first base.

“I’m open to playing anywhere,” Schrock said. I’m glad I’m getting the opportunity to play some different positions. I’m a second baseman by trade. I feel I’m athletic enough to play some other spots.”

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Schrock played first base for the first time Sunday. He didn’t even have a first baseman’s mitt but borrowed one from Nicky Delmonico, another newcomer the Reds signed in February who’s trying to make the club.

Manager David Bell told Schrock the best way to learn the position was by playing it in a game. There has been playing time available at first base because Joey Votto hasn’t seen action at the position since March 7. He was sidelined by a positive COVID-19 test but returned to the team Sunday.

“I got to experience some plays I hadn’t thought about,” Schrock said. “You run through some stuff in your mind prior to getting out there, but every single pitch, I’m thinking about where I need to be on this ball and this ball. It ended up going OK.”

Earlier this month, Schrock missed about a week with a calf issue. He returned to game action March 19 for the first time in nine days,

“I was just fortunate the calf thing wasn’t that serious,” Schrock said. “I got through my rehab pretty quick, and I was just really excited to be back on the field, and I was obviously excited to get the opportunity to play first base. I just asked a lot of questions. I’ve got a long way to go to get familiar over there, but it was awesome to be there in a game.”

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Schrock will find out soon whether he’s made the Opening Day roster. The Reds begin the season April 1 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

“It’s getting near the end,” he said. “I’m still going out there every day like it’s the first day. I just want to play my best when i get the opportunity.”

Bell praised Schrock’s approach at the plate and said his natural swing is level and leads to a lot of line drives.

“He just has a solid approach at the plate,” Bell said. “Being a new player to our organization, we’ve had to take a close look. Everything he’s done fits into a niche we’re looking for on this team. This last week, he’s fighting for a spot on the team. I think he’s done everything he can. That injury was a bit of a scare, but he came back really quickly from that, so that’s no longer a factor. He’s still a young player. It appears he’s getting better and better as a hitter. He’s been a great addition to our camp and he’s a possible contributor to our team.”

NOTES: The Reds lost 6-5 to the Texas Rangers on Wednesday, falling to 6-16 (.273) in the Cactus League. They are on pace for their worst spring training record since they moved to Goodyear, Ariz., in 2010. They posted their worst record (8-19, .286) in 2019. ... Eugenio Suarez and Aristides Aquino each hit their first home runs of the spring. Suarez made his sixth start at shortstop in the past nine days.

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