This is likely going to make a few of you mad, but the National League has adopted the designated hitter. The position itself has evolved over time in how it’s been used by teams. At one time there was essentially one guy who was the designated hitter for a team, but more recently teams have gotten away from that. Teams began doing more mixing and matching based on the pitcher on the mound – perhaps as a result of how bullpens and starting pitchers are used these days compared to when starters were relied on far more.
While the National League has had some experience with the designated hitter since interleague play began, and then in 2020 when it was implemented for the 60-game season, a full year is going to be a bit different. For the Cincinnati Reds it may be a blessing in disguise, so to speak. A month ago we wrote about who makes the most sense as a designated hitter for the Reds.
At the time we leaned on the idea that Mike Moustakas was the candidate to get most of the designated hitter time. He is sort of the odd man out with all of the positions he plays – second base, third base, and first base – all being played by others. While we still think he’ll likely get more time at designated hitter than anyone else will, the Reds don’t plan on having just one guy as the designated hitter day in and day out.
“We’ll use it to our advantage,” said Reds manager David Bell. “We don’t have any players that I consider DH. We don’t have any players that I want to be a full time DH either. That’s just not how they’re wired. At the same time I do think given the makeup of our team we can use it to our advantage. It might be more rotational in terms of who is DH’ing. I think we can do it in a way that keeps guys fresh, keeps guys on the field, gets another bat in the lineup we otherwise wouldn’t have. Actually it really serves our team well. For our team I really like it.”
Mike Moustakas has played several positions in the last few years. He’s spent time at third base. And he’s seen action at second base. There’s even been a little bit of action over at first base. As noted above, all of those spots are taken currently. But with the designated hitter role there every day, it could allow him to slide into one of those spots once a week and have the regular starter slide into the designated hitter role to get a little rest but also keep their bat in the lineup.
“That’s one of the benefits of having the DH,” Bell said. “I haven’t talked to Mike yet, I haven’t seen him (as of early Sunday afternoon). I know he’s not going to want to be a full time DH. And we will not have to approach it that way – he may get some time there, but given that he’s played multiple positions it’s going to work itself out.”
Tyler Stephenson also mentioned that he was looking forward to more playing time this year, mentioning the designated hitter role as a way that could allow him to get some additional playing time. Almost no one catches 140+ games a year anymore, even if they are generally considered healthy for the full year by catcher standards. While the backup catcher has yet to be determined for 2022, whoever it is will get a few starts each week to give Stephenson some time off when he needs it. But with a good hitter in Stephenson the team does have the option to put him in there as a designated hitter some days while also giving his body a bit of a rest from the rigors of catching.
Less than 2 hours after this article was published the Reds traded both Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez to the Seattle Mariners and negated a lot of this information.