Alonso getting his feet wet in the outfield

Alonso getting his feet wet in the outfield

Alonso getting his feet wet in the outfield
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There are two immutable truths that will continue to surround prospect Yonder Alonso during his time with the Reds.

Truth one is that Alonso won't play first base as long as 2010 National League MVP Joey Votto is around and healthy. And because of truth one, truth two is that Alonso will be one of the first names mentioned in trade rumors involving Cincinnati.

While Votto appears to be the immovable object, especially after he signed a three-year, $38 million contract last month, Alonso isn't letting that stop him. Some evidence is visible with the four gloves that sit right above his locker.

Only one glove is a first baseman's mitt, the other three are for the outfield.

"[Votto] is going to be here until whenever he wants, bottom line," said Alonso, whose locker is right next to Votto. "They're going to try and find me a position so I can be in the lineup or do whatever they think I can do.

"I'm just excited because they're trying to find me a spot. It's kind of like they care and they think I can play out there, which is good."

Alonso took some balls in the outfield last spring and played 30 games in left field during the 2010 season at Double-A and Triple-A. This spring, his work has been more intensified, and he's working daily with coach Billy Hatcher taking fly balls and trying to get more used to the position.

Hatcher, the Reds' first-base coach and a former Major League outfielder, has a willing and enthusiastic pupil.

"He's improved a lot," Hatcher said. "The one thing with the kid is he is willing to put the work in. He's still a first baseman, but get him in the outfield just in case, you never know. He's willing to put the time in. He put the time in during the offseason and mentally prepared for it. He's a worker, so he has a chance."

Alonso is known primarily for his bat and not his skills defensively -- even when he's at first base. He's not a fast runner, which can limit his range in the outfield.

"I think the kid is very athletic," Hatcher said. "He's never been in the outfield. It comes with time and getting the opportunity to play. We've got all of Spring Training and we'll work every day."

Asked how the 23-year-old spent his offseason, Alonso didn't take long to explain.

"Mucho fly balls. Mucho," said Alonso, who trained at the University of Miami with big leaguers Jorge Posada, Melky Cabrera and occasionally his friend, Alex Rodriguez. "I changed my whole workout. I did a 20-week workout and some hitting. I didn't do much traveling or take much of a rest. I hit it."

Having organizational depth and talented players knocking on the door to the Majors without a place to play is an issue the Reds didn't have very often a few years ago. The farm system is deep at multiple positions, and while the Major League team is contending with the players it has, prospects are waiting their turn.

Some longer than others.

"He only played a half a year at Triple-A. He's still got some playing to do. Things work themselves out," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "When I was on the Dodgers, we had everybody backed up. That's what good teams and good organizations do. I remember one time when I came up with the Braves, we were loaded with outfielders. I remember my roommate, Ralph Garr, led the league at .364 and he had to go back because there wasn't room. He hit .384 the next year and I hit .325 and had to go back.

"It's a good problem to have here for us. It's a good problem if we need to go get something."

Hence the reason that players like Alonso will always hear their names floated around as prospects that could be used as trade bait. Last year, when the Reds attempted to trade for pitcher Cliff Lee from the Mariners, Alonso's name was prominent in the rumors. The Reds never confirmed those rumors, however.

Alonso made it clear where he would like to establish his baseball roots.

"At first, I was all right with it and got over it," Alonso said. "Then I was like, 'You know what? I want to stay here. I like it here. I know everybody here.' It got kind of annoying, make no doubt. I want to stay here. I want to be a part of this. We're all young and having a good time. It's good."

Baker was not able to promise that Alonso would get time in left field during spring games, especially with Jonny Gomes, Fred Lewis, Jeremy Hermida and others likely to get action in the outfield. Alonso will continue to play first base behind Votto as well and try to earn a place on the Reds' bench out of camp.

The left-handed power-hitting Alonso, who turns 24 on April 8, batted .290 with 15 home runs, 69 RBIs and a .362 on-base percentage in 131 games for Double-A Carolina and Triple-A Louisville.

A September callup followed, which provided Alonso with his first taste of the Majors. Used primarily as a pinch-hitter, he batted .207 (6-for-29) with two doubles in 22 games.

"I think it helped in every way possible," Alonso said. "I did the hardest thing that any hitter can do, which is pinch-hit. I had good at-bats and did well with it. It's just a matter of keeping it going and learning from it. I definitely did that. I watched other guys and got a feel for what it is. I feel a lot easier coming in and doing my thing and working. I don't feel like, 'Oh my god, everyone is watching me.' It's not a surprise anymore."

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