Suarez working hard to improve defense at 3B

Suarez working hard to improve defense at 3B

CINCINNATI -- Eugenio Suarez's offense has been one of the bigger bright spots during this difficult early portion of the Reds' season. The first-year third baseman very much wants his defense to be on par with his hitting.

"I have to be better every day," Suarez said on Thursday.

Suarez had just returned from the clubhouse after an extended early session in the field with coach Freddie Benavides and teammate Ivan De Jesus Jr. Hitting coach Don Long hit ground ball after ground ball to Suarez while Benavides provided instruction.

On Wednesday night, during an 8-7 loss in 12 innings to the Indians, Suarez committed two errors that made him the Major League leader among third basemen with nine errors. He misplayed a Mike Napoli ball hit his way with one out in the sixth inning for a run-scoring error and made another with two outs in the 10th with Yan Gomes batting that ended up not costing the Reds.

Napoli reaches, Kipnis scores

A shortstop his whole career, Suarez took over at third base this season after the Reds traded Todd Frazier.

"I don't think he's close to being a finished product, simply because he really is a shortstop playing third base," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I think the things we saw in Spring Training ... were really good signs of his ability to cross over and make the transition. You get more exposed when you play every day with a lot more on the line than a Spring Training game."

According to FanGraphs.com, Suarez is tied for second worst in the Majors ahead of the Mets' David Wright among qualifying third basemen with a minus-5 in Defensive Runs Saved and second worst with a minus-4.1 Ultimate Zone Rating.

"I have to work hard with my defense. I have to help my team," Suarez said. "I have to have a ground-ball routine and I work a lot with Freddie. He helps me a lot. He helps me get comfortable at third base."

Suarez hasn't let his defense affect his offense as he came in to Thursday's game against the Indians with a team-leading nine home runs, including three in the previous four games.

Among the many differences at third base for Suarez is the batted ball gets to third base much quicker. There is a constant need to know the hitters and those capable of dropping a bunt. Then there are all the infield shifts, which are en vogue around the Majors.

"I worked on getting into the best position and how I feel comfortable at third base," Suarez said. "Don't be too low, don't be too high, be as square as possible. There's footwork and more agility to the line and to the glove side, to everywhere."

The Reds are letting Suarez learn on the job, and Price feels optimistic that he will improve.

"The best thing about the situation we're in currently is the fact that he has the freedom to kind of learn the position without feeling like whatever his shortcomings are in the early part is going to play a huge role in our ability to win the World Series or not," Price said. "He's got the freedom to just learn through experience. He's going to make some mistakes along the way as anybody would making that transition."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. 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.