CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 18: Eugenio Suarez #7 of the Cincinnati Reds tries to check his swing while batting in the seventh inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on August 18, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Cardinals defeated the Reds 5-4. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Reds planning ahead to fill gap at third if Suarez isn’t back by Opening Day

Suarez had surgery on Jan. 28 to remove loose cartilage from his right shoulder after a swimming-pool accident.

“It’s not like it was an injury that he was not able to do a lot. That’s the advantage he has,” said Bell, who is confident in Saurez’s early return, even if it is not in time for opening day. “I think it is different depending on the player how much time is needed to get ready. An experienced player like Geno, it could be a lot less (time) than another player.”

Suarez, 28, was working on conditioning, taking ground balls and hitting for three weeks in January prior to the injury. Last season he established records for home runs in a season by a player from Venezuela and by a National League third baseman (49), good for second in Major League baseball. Only Pete Alfonso of the New York Mets hit more (53). Suarez was honored with the Luis Aparicio Award as the best player in the major leagues from Venezuela.

“It’s a really just waiting on the health to the point he can go out and do it,” Bell said. “The body, the mentality, the everything else he’s preparing. It could happen fast.”

If he’s not ready who plays third base? Mike Moustakas, who is making the transition from third base to second base? Nick Castellanos, who came up with Suarez in the Detroit Tigers organization as a third baseman? Current bench players Kyle Farmer, Alex Blandino, Josh VanMeter or Derek Dietrich also have experience at third base.

“We haven’t allowed ourselves to think that way yet,” Bell said. “But I wrote a note to myself a note to getting Moustakas some time playing third, even making sure on the shifts to get on the shortstop side. But we want him to continue work at second base. I’m not saying Castellanos couldn’t do it. That’s not in our thought process right now only because it’s not easy to move a guy who has dedicated himself to becoming a better right fielder the last several years. We want Nick to be really comfortable. He is a big part of our lineup.”

Where Castellanos could really pick up the slack is offensively. Losing Suarez for any length of time will hurt the Reds’ ability to score runs.

Suarez was an All-Star in 2018, hitting .280 and belting 34 home runs. He drove in 104 runs. He and Hall of Famer Tony Pérez are the only third basemen in club history with at least 25 home runs in three seasons and the only third basemen in club history with at least 30 in two seasons.

The Reds anticipate Suarez will be ready to play early in the regular season. The first three weeks in camp, he was conditioning everyday.

“I worked on all my body, hitting, ground balls and everything,” Suarez said. “I was getting ready for spring training. I was working hard. I already had three weeks working on my body when the accident happened. It wasn’t as bad.

“I’m better. I feel better everyday.”

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