Two years ago Eugenio Suárez crushed 49 home runs, setting a Major League record for a player born in Venezuela in a single season. That mark also tied him with Ted Kluszewski for the second most ever in a season by a Cincinnati Reds player. Only George Foster, in his 1977 MVP season, has topped to 50 homer mark in franchise history when he slugged 52 of them and drove in an absurd 149 runs.
“This year my goal is to break my own record,” said Suárez. “In 2019 it was 49. I want to break my own record, and in 2019 I hit 49, this year I hope and I believe it, and I feel like this is going to be a special year for me – I’m going for 50 homers. I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but I’ll go for 50. Like I said, I worked on my body, I feel so good. I’m going for 50 homers.”
That’s going to be a tall task. The baseball in 2019, we know now, was juiced. And we also know that in 2021 that Major League Baseball has taken steps to try and deaden the ball a little bit. We won’t know until we start seeing games, and some people get their hands on game baseballs to examine them, but if what we believe to be true about the 2019 baseball and the 2021 baseball, it’s going to be harder to hit a home run in the upcoming season than it was back in 2019.
The 2020 season was a difficult one for many players. For some, it was on the field struggles. For others there were some off the field difficulties as can be felt and understood by so many of us given the shape of the world at the time. And for Eugenio Suárez, it was a mix of both of those things.
“It’s hard to play with no fans,” said Suárez. “But for me it was even harder because my family wasn’t with me. I want my family there, I want that support, I wanted that fan support – they support all of us a lot. When you look back, my last year wasn’t good. I didn’t feel happy about last year – talking about myself, not about the team because we made the playoffs – but especially on myself. I’m better than that. I’m not a .200 hitter. I want to be better, and I understand working on my body and keeping my body strong I have got an opportunity to be better. And I think this year I did a really good job of working on my body, and my mentality is strong – I’m a new guy now.”
After having surgery on his shoulder in January, from a health standpoint, the season not beginning until late July may have been beneficial for Eugenio Suárez. But even with the additional time, the shoulder was still a little bit of an issue.
“Yeah, some, but it was more mentality,” said Suárez of his shoulder. “I knew there was something in my shoulder and I didn’t want to hurt it again. Sometimes I’d feel something, but it’s not an excuse. It was me and I know I’m better than that, but I did my best that I can. The results weren’t what I wanted. That’s why I worked harder than last year, to see the results, to see what’s going to happen this year. I’m so excited for this year and I’m so excited for this year and happy to be around the boys. Everybody looks good, everybody has good energy and I bring my energy to everybody with my Good Vibes Only – that’s me, man. I want to be the best Suárez I can be, the best ever. This year.”
The offseason was a little bit different for the Reds third baseman. He lost weight, dropping 15 pounds, and focused on getting in better shape. The results have him believing good things are coming.
“Yeah, I lost like 15 pounds,” Suárez said. “I just tried to get my body healthy and I understand that my body is very important to play for a long time in the big leagues. So right now I’ve just been working on my body. No more arepas. No more beers.
“All of my body feels strong right now,” he continued. “It feels so healthy. I want to keep doing it, I don’t want to lose my power – even though I lost weight, I feel like I didn’t lose my power. My power is there and I feel healthy. Last year for me was tough. Talking about everything, overall. My body didn’t feel very good last year. It felt like I was slow, my footwork wasn’t good. This offseason, in my house, with my family and talking about my future in the game, I understand if I didn’t do anything for my body I wouldn’t play as long as I wanted, I just want to play as long as I can. I know I don’t control that, but I control being healthy, and controlling my body. That’s why I am doing this, and right now it feels so good. My body feels good, my energy is high. This is a new version of myself. I worked so hard in the offseason and I want to see what the hard work brings to me. This is going to be my year.”
As far as his approach at the plate, for now at least, it doesn’t sound like the plan it to change much.
“I don’t want to try and change anything,” said Suárez. “My approach is the same. I think it’s more my mentality – I want to try to see the ball as long as I can and hit the ball as hard as I can and hit the ball up the middle, to the opposite field. I haven’t faced pitching yet, but that’s my plan, that’s what I have in my mind. Same approach, same everything, just stronger up here (pointed at his head) and just do the same thing every time, don’t change anything.”
Near the end of the interview, the biggest question in spring training when it comes to the Reds, Eugenio Suárez was asked about playing shortstop.
“(Fingers crossed) Man, you know, it’s not a secret, everybody knows I love to play shortstop,”said Suárez. “It’s my natural position. But, again, I don’t control that. I’ll be so happy if I get at least one game at shortstop. I’m open to playing shortstop. I feel like I can play shortstop right now, I feel like I could do a good job at shortstop. But, you know, we’ll see. Maybe here in spring training I’ll get the opportunity to play shortstop for one or two games.”
As we wrote the other day, the Reds haven’t had serious discussions about that this offseason. But manager David Bell did hedge that comment by saying they “are always open minded.”