Ellie Delacruz was relaxing with a group of teammates at the Visiting Clubhouse at Camden Yards on Monday when news broke that he had been named the National League Player of the Week in just 17 games in the major leagues.
“Why are you so late?” asked one of his teammates.
“Yeah,” added another, “Matt did it the first week.”
The false impatience and comparisons to teammate and fellow rookie Matt McLain highlighted just how promising the future and present of the Cincinnati Reds are.
McLain, a 23-year-old infielder, shared the honor with Dela Cruz at the end of May after just a week of playing. The 21-year-old de la Cruz arrived 22 days later and took at least a week, less than three weeks, to be named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Delacruz and McLain also include Spencer Steer, 25, who won NL Rookie of the Month for May, and Andrew Abbott, 24, who was a big hit in his first three major league games. , is part of the almost wacky Reds rookie class. This year, the Elias Sports Authority had to go back to the introduction of tall mounds in 1893 to contextualize his exploits. He is the only pitcher to start his career with at least 3 clean starts of at least 5.
Abbott again won Tuesday in a start against the in-form Baltimore Orioles, going 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA, while the feisty Reds were 43-38 through Thursday, just 19 on last year’s total. I couldn’t win. Probably a full year ahead of schedule.
In total, 11 Reds have made their major league debuts this year, and 14 rookies have appeared in games. But it’s Dela Cruz, a lithe 6-foot-5 infielder with jetpack speed and ball-denting power, who gets the most attention. He burst into the league this month, forcefully interrupting conversations filled with superlatives and helped the Reds transform from a team of promise to one of the most interesting stories of the year.
“He has made a huge difference for our team,” said Reds manager David Bell.
Delacruz’s sudden impact saw the Reds win 13 of their first 17 games, including a 12-game win streak that tied the franchise’s longest winning streak in 1957.
The Reds lost 100 games last year, but many expected some improvement. Few expected this.
440 with two homers and six extra bases in a great awards week. He slowed his pace a bit earlier this week, but for those of you who have seen Dela Cruz in spring training or AAA-class Louisville, Dela Cruz, who has hit 12 homers and 11 doubles in just 38 games this year, is temporarily off. I didn’t even have a slump. It might crush his expectations.
After Delacruz became the first player to hit for the cycle since Eric Davis in 1989, Cincinnati veteran first baseman Joey Votto said he wanted to represent Delacruz’s combination of speed and power, a rarity for a switch hitter. He actually uttered the word “Mickey Mantle”. . Despite Dela Cruz’s lack of hits for several days, the bot promised to unleash even more bangs and sizzling sounds.
“I’ve read a book about Mickey Mantle and I know a little bit about him,” Botto said Tuesday in Baltimore. “I really can’t think of anyone else. Is he going to take over Mickey’s career? You know? But he’s got people to say, ‘Does he have more power than Ohtani?’ will start hitting a nice ball. Does he have more power than Aaron Judge, more than Giancarlo Stanton? ’ He would. “
Votto, who recently returned from shoulder surgery that shortened the 2022 season, made two appearances for Class-A Dayton during his rehab period last year. In one of those incidents, de la Cruz stunned witnesses by hitting the ball over the right field line, over the fence and into the street, Bott said. Bott noted a lot of the same at AAA-tier Louisville this year, and this month at the big leagues, where Dela Cruz can quickly adjust if needed.
But besides his unusual height for a Delacruz infielder, it’s his prowess on the base pass that immediately grabs everyone’s attention.
“Just watching him move makes a difference,” Botto said. “Very few players I’ve ever seen move like him at height. Speed, grace. Few runners that match his talents are 6-5, and baseball’s isn’t it.”
McLain, who hit his sixth homer of the season on Tuesday to help the Reds end a three-game losing streak after a 12-game Heater game, played alongside Dela Cruz in the AA division and how he created slugging. marveled at. his quick footwork. Most notably, according to McLean, in one game Dela Cruz hesitated on what appeared to be a double at second base, and the two-man cutoff lead hit a second-run lob. Delacruz turned on the booster and flew to third base.
“It’s unbelievable when he hits long base,” said McLain, who batted .316 through Wednesday and played solid defense.
Now Dela Cruz is doing everything at the major league level with talent and joy.
“100 percent,” said de la Cruz, from the Dominican Republic, through an interpreter. “I enjoy it as much as I can and enjoy every moment.”
De La Cruz grew up in Sabana Grande de Boya, the youngest of nine children, including a twin brother, Pedro, who was nearly a foot shorter than Ellie at 5’8″. The Reds signed Dela Cruz in a tryout that went to see other players. Lean and eager, Dela Cruz caught their attention, and now almost apologises for being chosen.
“None of those people came to see me,” he said. “Ultimately they asked for my name. Of course it’s not my choice they chose me.”
The deal fit into Cincinnati general manager Nick Krall’s strategic plan to build a more athletic roster. Some say the Reds are well suited to thrive under baseball’s new rules, which emphasize athleticism over tactics, as did the Orioles, who won 2 of 3 in a fun trilogy this week. But Krall said the Reds wanted more speed and mobility under the old rules.
Their aggressive style is contagious. Last week, the Braves welcomed 126,724 fans to their three-game series against Atlanta (the Braves won two, all three by one point). It was the highest attendance for a regular-season three-game series in 21 years at the Great American Ballpark.
“It’s unbelievable,” Krall said. “Cincinnati has great fans, we’ve never had them. You can see them involved with this team. They’re really working on it.”
The Reds’ biggest concern is their starting pitching, which ranks 28th in the majors with a 5.31 ERA through Wednesday.
The staff suffered injuries, with rookie Abbott being the ace and stopper. But the bullpen came to the rescue with anchor Alexis Diaz, 26, who had 22 saves for 22 through Wednesday. He’s the younger brother of Mets closer Edwin Diaz, but Alexis’ demeanor reminds at least one veteran teammate of former Yankees great Mariano Rivera.
“I don’t want to jinx Alexis,” said catcher Kurt Cazali. I don’t know if he had a heartbeat before, but he definitely has no heartbeat now. “
Most of these exciting young players have minor league experience together, and Krall is optimistic that he believes the relationships and trust they built on the farm will help foster a winning formula in Cincinnati. reinforces the point of view. The Reds qualified for the wild-card round of the playoffs in 2020, but haven’t won a postseason series since 1995, before these young players were born. Now they want more than the weekly honors.
“This is just the beginning of everything we’re trying to achieve here,” said de la Cruz.