Slugging Suarez locked in at plate

With solo shot vs. Pittsburgh, infielder has 4 of Reds' 7 home runs in 2016

Slugging Suarez locked in at plate

CINCINNATI -- Some Reds teammates were giving third baseman Eugenio Suarez a hard time in jovial fashion around the clubhouse Sunday following a 2-1 victory over the Pirates. Suarez, a Venezuelan native, speaks English fluently in more intimate settings. But with an onslaught of media and cameras waiting around his locker, he understandably opted for a translator.

If Suarez keeps up his current pace, he might be calling for translator Julio Morillo quite a bit, as Suarez will remain a man in demand. In the sixth inning, he slugged his fourth home run of the young season, and he has reached safely in all six games. Cincinnati is off to a 5-1 start, and Suarez has done a nice job replacing the traded Todd Frazier.

"I feel really happy that I'm helping the team to win," Suarez said via Morillo.

Suarez, 24, has hit four of the Reds' seven homers this season and three of the last five. He's batting .435/.500/.957 (10-for-23) with nine RBIs. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first Reds player with four homers in the team's first six games since Adam Dunn in 2004.

Suarez hit 13 homers in 97 games last season after coming up in June to replace injured shortstop Zack Cozart, in addition to eight homers in Triple-A. Before he was acquired from the Tigers in a December 2014 trade, he was not known for having power.

Suarez's two-run homer

"I saw him last year. The guy wakes up and hits," Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said. "The guy is a natural. He really does a good job, and he's doing great right now. He has that ability. He's still really young and still coming into his own as a Major Leaguer."

Cincinnati was trailing by a 1-0 score when Suarez hit Jeff Locke's 2-2 pitch to right field. It left his bat at 102 mph and traveled 365 feet, according to Statcast™. But it was significant for another reason. Of Suarez's 21 career homers in the Majors, it was only the second time he's cleared the wall in right field.

"Last year I hit one against the Cubs [on Aug. 31 at Wrigley Field]," Suarez said. "Right now, I'm focused on using all of the field. I'm focused on seeing the ball and hitting the ball, to whatever part of the field."

According to Statcast™, Suarez is not hitting the ball harder. (88.3 this year, 88.7 last year). But he is elevating more -- his launch angle was 13 degrees last year and it's 18.3 degrees this year. He's also been more aggressive this season, attacking on 31.8 percent of first pitches as compared to 24.4 percent last year.  

Often during batting practice, manager Bryan Price notices Suarez trying to stay to the middle of the field with his hits and not trying to slug homers. While an all fields approach has impressed Price, so has something else.

"Not a lot of big free swings on pitches outside the zone," Price said. "If you make a good pitch in tight to him, he's going to let it pass. He's not going to try to force the action. I think that's what happens when hitters are really feeling good. They're allowing a good pitch to present itself to hit instead of going out there and trying to chase hits and increasing the size of the strike zone. It's fun to watch right now because he's on fire."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.