The Reds pitching staff isn't loaded with a bunch of strikeout guys. Many of them put the ball in play and will benefit from having Gonzalez behind them."It should give our pitchers more confidence," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "It should give our other infielders more confidence. It should give our manager more confidence." Last season after it acquired Phillips to play second base in an April trade with Cleveland, Cincinnati lacked stability on the left side of the infield. Offensive-minded Felipe Lopez didn't concentrate as much defensively. When Lopez was traded to Washington in July, veteran replacement Royce Clayton didn't click well with Phillips. Poor defense can lead to extended innings, which definitely leads to opponent rallies. "There were like four or five times last year, we had double-play balls we should have turned and we didn't, and they hit a home run after it," Narron said. "It was unreal. It seemed like 40 or 50." Phillips has his own solid reputation as an athletic second baseman. Narron couldn't help being optimistic about the new double-play combo up the middle. "I'm hoping [Gonzalez] and Brandon can work together extremely well," Narron said. "If they do, we'd have something special up the middle for the next three-four years. They could be as good as anybody." Strong shortstop-second base duos aren't usually forged overnight, but Phillips believed the learning curve could be shortened during camp while working with Gonzalez. "I think we'll make a good double-play combination, honestly," Phillips said. "We'll go out there and make the fundamental plays and maybe some spectacular plays also. It might not take as long because we're both athletic and can do some things out there. It's all about communication. If you can't communicate, things aren't going to get done. I'll try to build a friendship with him so it'll be easier." A third excellent glove man could also be sharing the field with Gonzalez and Phillips. Narron indicated that utility player Juan Castro, also one of the slickest fielders in the game, will get some chances at third base. Castro would often likely replace regular Edwin Encarnacion late in games when the Reds need extra defense to hold leads. The compliments have been less bountiful when Gonzalez's hitting skills are brought up. He batted .255 with nine home runs and 50 RBIs last season and is a .246 career hitter who strikes out a lot more than he walks. "Right now, no one talks about him offensively," Narron said. "That's kind of a plus in his favor, to be honest with you. He could kind of sneak up on everybody." Maybe, but Gonzalez knows why he was brought to Cincinnati and aims to make good on his reputation. "If I do nothing with my bat, I'll do it with my glove," Gonzalez said. "You can win games with the glove and make a difference. That's part of my job."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.