Riggleman: Reds all-star infield ‘a special group’

July 09, 2018

Of the three Cincinnati Reds interviewed Sunday about making the National League All-Star team, Eugenio Suarez showed the most emotion.

The Pharrell Williams song “Happy” should have been playing in the background at Wrigley Field because “happy” was the word of the day for the 26-year-old Venezuelan third baseman, who was able to put aside a second straight disappointing loss to the Chicago Cubs for a moment.

“I’m so happy,” Suarez said, “and I know my wife, my family and everybody in my hometown is going to be happy for me. That makes me feel more happy.”

Suarez and second baseman Scooter Gennett will represent the Reds as first-time all-stars July 17 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. First baseman Joey Votto will make his seventh appearance in the 89th edition of the Midsummer Classic.

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There are big reasons each player made the team even though the Reds have been in last place all season:

• Votto leads the National League in on-base percentage (.425).

• Gennett is tied for the league lead in batting average (.326).

• Suarez leads the league with 68 RBIs.

It’s the first time the Reds have put three-quarters of their infield in the All-Star Game since 2011 when third baseman Scott Rolen, second baseman Brandon Phillips and Votto made the team.

Through Saturday, the Reds infield led baseball in hits (407), batting average (.291) and on-base percentage (.370). Even shortstop Jose Peraza has been much improved. He’s hitting .302 in the last 28 days.

“I’m really happy and appreciative that our three guys are on there,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “They should be on there. They’re on there. It’s a great honor. It’s a special group there. That fourth infielder has really come on, too: Jose Peraza. He’s starting to show people around baseball how good he is. It’s a pretty special infield.”

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Suarez and Votto made the team through the player ballot, which is a vote of players, managers and coaches. Major League Baseball selected Gennett. Most experts had Suarez and Gennett making the team. Votto was a bit of a surprise — even if he is widely thought of as one of the best players in baseball.

“I was just informed, so I’m a little bit shocked right now,” Votto said Sunday. “I’m very proud, and I look forward to it. Most importantly, I look forward to representing the Cincinnati Reds. It’s just exciting putting that uniform on, standing on that line and representing the city and the team.”

By making the team, Gennett adds another chapter to his amazing story. The Milwaukee Brewers waived Gennett, who hit .263 in 136 games the previous season, in March 2017. The Reds picked him up, but he didn’t earn a starting job right away. He started 44 games in the first half.

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Gennett’s playing time picked up after he hit four home runs in a game in June. While he hasn’t repeated that feat, he has performed at an all-star level for more than a year now.

“I don’t want to say I’m surprised about how I’m playing,” Gennett said. “I felt I always was a good hitter and a good player. I’m just thankful and blessed last year I got the opportunity to be in there very day on a more consistent basis. A lot of players, until they earn that opportunity, it can be tough. It can be a grind when you’re used to playing every day and all of a sudden it’s a half0type deal and it kind of throws you off a little bit.”