CINCINNATI -- It was clear from the moment he was drafted that prospect Yonder Alonso's bat would eventually force the Reds' hand into getting him to the Major Leagues. That time came on Tuesday, when the Reds traded veteran left fielder Jonny Gomes to the Nationals for two Minor League players. In a corresponding move, Alonso -- a left fielder and first baseman -- was recalled from Triple-A Louisville. "We actually had a couple of clubs that inquired about Jonny's services, but Washington was probably the most persistent," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "For us, it's a tough move to make in some ways. Jonny was a big part of our club last year and he's obviously a guy we all think highly of as a person and as a player. It gives us an opportunity now to bring up a player like Alonso and start looking at some of our younger guys that we feel we need to give an opportunity to."
The trade went down not long before the Reds played the Mets on Tuesday at Great American Ball Park. Gomes was scratched from the starting lineup and replaced by Chris Heisey. Moments later and about 10 minutes before first pitch, the deal was announced by both clubs. Gomes, 30, was batting only .211 in 77 games, with 11 home runs, 31 RBIs and a .336 on-base percentage. He was playing out the option year of his contract and earning $1.75 million this season.
Speaking to reporters while his now former teammates played the Mets, Gomes expressed surprise about the trade but also understood."This is a results-driven industry, if you will," Gomes said. "When the results aren't there, it might be time to move." Manager Dusty Baker announced early in Spring Training that Gomes would be the Reds' regular left fielder. That was motivated, in part, by his hitting .266 with 18 homers and a career high 86 RBIs in 148 games last season. But Gomes struggled to hit from the start and lost his regular role by May and shared time with Heisey and Fred Lewis. While disappointed, Gomes expressed gratitude about the chance he was given by the Reds, who signed him to a Minor League deal before the 2009 season after he was non-tendered by the Rays. "What a great opportunity to play for such a baseball-rich city, a baseball-rich organization," Gomes said. "I definitely don't take any of it for granted. In 2008 at the end of that season, individually, I was kind of left in the weeds. Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker gave me the opportunity. "I gave it a great run. I'm bitter about leaving, because I really love these guys. I love where this team is at. I love where they're about to go. As we see right now, it's a business. On the other token, a team reached out and wanted my services. I take that as a compliment as well." Coming over to the Reds' organization in the deal is 22-year lefty reliever Chris Manno, who had 12 saves in 13 chances at Class A Hagerstown; and outfielder/first baseman Bill Rhinehart, who had 21 homers and 59 RBIs with Double-A Harrisburg. Manno was a 26th-round pick out of Duke University in last year's Draft. Alonso, the Reds' first-round pick in 2008, was batting .296 with 12 home runs, 56 RBIs and .374 OBP and was both an International League All-Star and invite to the XM All-Star Futures Game in Phoenix. A first baseman when he first turned pro out of the Univ. of Miami, the 24-year-old began a transition to left field last season because Joey Votto blocked the path at first base. A September callup to the big leagues last season, Alonso batted .207 (6-for-29) in 22 games, mostly as a pinch-hitter. His second promotion to the Reds was less predictable, as it came two minutes before Louisville was to take the field for its own game when Bats manager Rick Sweet summoned him to the office. "[Sweet] said, 'You've got to go. Don't pick up anything, just go.' I grabbed a couple of bats, some cleats and shoes and headed on over," Alonso said. "It was pretty exciting." Alonso sped up Interstate 71 to Cincinnati and arrived in the fourth inning. He certainly wasn't going to take his time after patiently waiting all season for the chance to come up. "You always want to be ready for that call," Alonso said. "You don't think about it too much. You just play every day and make sure you're ready for the team down there and able to succeed. And hopefully you get the call." Not long after he was out of the car, Alonso was summoned to pinch-hit for Aroldis Chapman with two outs in the sixth inning and a man on first base. He scorched a 1-0 pitch from Manny Acosta to the right-field corner for a double. "That's going to be part of his job description here," Baker said. "Now we have two left-handers on the bench, which we needed because we only had one. When Fred was playing, we didn't have any." Jocketty stopped short of saying that Alonso would become the Reds' regular left fielder. The plan appears to continue a three-way system in left field with Alonso, Heisey and Lewis. This season, Alonso played 62 games in the outfield and 21 games at first base. He is not fleet of foot defensively, but has earned high marks for his work ethic and willingness to learn a new position. Sweet has praised his improved routes to fly balls. "He's improved a lot," Jocketty said. "He'll be able to spell Joey from time to time at first base and he'll play some left field. He'll be a left-handed hitter off the bench. The one thing we do know about Yonder is he can hit. He can flat out hit. That's what we want to see. That's what we need."