We are one day closer to the first game of the spring, which will take place on Sunday against Cleveland. Technically the Cincinnati Reds will be the “road” team in the game, but since the two teams share the ballpark, it’s only a road game in name. While no starter has yet been named, manager David Bell hinted today that it could be right-handed pitcher José De León.
“It looks like, and this could change, it turns out to be José De León’s day, and several guys to follow up with him,” said Bell. “I don’t know for sure if José’s going to start that game, I imagine it’s going to be 2 innings or something like that. More than anything it’s just the where they fall.”
As we wrote on Sunday, José De León had a big winter in Puerto Rico that saw him strike out 53 batters in just 29.0 innings across six starts in the regular season and playoffs. But he also saw his stuff step forward a bit, too, giving him confidence he hadn’t had since prior to his Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2018 season.
Jose Garcia’s offseason change
If you happen to follow Jose Garcia over on instagram you noticed how often he was in the gym, and you probably noticed that he got a bit stronger, and bigger, over the winter. It didn’t got unnoticed by the Reds manager.
“He looks great. I do think he’s strong, bigger – he’s a big man,” said Bell. “I think he’s in excellent shape. I know he worked hard this winter, physically, but also on his swing. He’s ready to go. He’s fun to be around, his presence, and just he’s always got a smile on his face and he’s excited about where he is.”
Adding muscle to his frame was one goal for the shortstop from Cuba, but he also worked with his coach on improving his flexibility.
“I’ve been working a lot on my body, and my flexibility as well,” said Garcia. “I’ve been working with my coach Rio Rodriguez, we’ve been working a lot this offseason. I feel very good about my body and can’t wait to see what the 2021 season brings.”
Jesse Winker and a step towards an amazing season
Last year was just a 60-game season. For Jesse Winker it represented the best year for him at the plate. He posted a .932 OPS and a 142 OPS+, both of which were easily the best of his career.
“I think he’s a guy that falls into the category of if that’s a full season it might have been an amazing season,” said manager David Bell. “He did have enough success to really take a big step towards being a better, more consistent player.”
In just 54 games played, Winker hit 12 home runs. His career high was when he hit 16 the year before, but that came in 113 games and a total of 384 plate appearances. The additional power in 2020 did come with additional strikeouts. Winker, a player who had always had a better than average strikeout rate in the past, struck out 25.1% of the time he stepped to the plate in 2020. His career rate prior to that was just 15.2%. That’s an increase of nearly 67% over what he had previously done in his career. His walk rate was also higher during the shortened season as he sported a career best 15.3% walk rate.