For the Cincinnati Reds, one of the most encouraging things to come out of spring training thus far has been the defense of Yonder Alonso in left field.
Considered exclusively a first baseman when the Reds selected him in the first round of the 2008 draft – just before Joey Votto exploded as one of the top players in Major League Baseball – Alonso is making the slow transition to playing LF.
Alonso will never be considered a “good” defensive outfielder, but he’s proven he can at least hold his own and not embarrass himself. And after years of watching Adam Dunn and now Jonny Gomes man the position, it’s not as if Reds fans have very high expectations when it comes to the defensive prowess of their left fielders.
The big question surrounding Alonso is whether the Reds keep him as a super sub on the 25-man roster, or send him to Louisville to get every day at-bats (and continue to work on the transition to LF).
As it stands right now, I am picking the latter. I don’t think Alonso will be in uniform for Cincinnati on Opening Day on Thursday, March 31 against the Brewers. I fully expect him to start the year at Triple-A and then it will be a matter of whether he tears it up at that level, or is just a mediocre player that has far too much written about him. If he gets off to a hot start, I don’t expect him to be in Louisville for long.
Dusty says no platoon in LF?
One more quick note: Reds manager Dusty Baker said earlier in spring training that there would “not be a platoon in left field.” That took many by surprise and even angered some Reds fans. But I’m not buying that for a minute. It was a classic case of Dusty building up Gomes’ confidence and showing him respect after a solid (yet inconsistent) 2010 season when Gomes emerged as one of the team leaders. There is no doubt in my mind that Gomes and free-agent acquisition Fred Lewis will platoon in left (with some Chris Heisey sprinkled in for good meaure). However, Baker being the old-school manager that he is wants to make Lewis earn it this spring. He doesn’t just want to say, “Yeah, we’re automatically going with a platoon of Gomes against lefties and Lewis against righties in left,” but I think that’s exactly how it will pan out.