Shortstop Eugenio Suarez committed two early errors and Cincinnati trailed by six runs after only 13 pitches in Thursday’s 11-6 loss. Suarez is adjusting to a new position after starting at third base for the past five years.
“I think the rest of the game, he was much more comfortable,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He wants to show that he belongs there. We know he belongs there, and he’ll continue to get that opportunity.”
St. Louis unveiled an explosive offense featuring a mix of veterans such as Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado along with 22-year-old rookie Dylan Carlson, who became the youngest Cardinals player to homer on Opening Day since 1936.
Arenado recorded two hits in his St. Louis debut and should enjoy hitting behind Goldschmidt, who was 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles. Left fielder Tyler O’Neill added a two-run homer and is eager to put together a complete season after battling inconsistency in recent years.
“I’ve always been impressed with Tyler,” Goldschmidt said. “There’s definitely high expectations, and he’s definitely shown at times how great he can be.”
Cincinnati starter Tyler Mahle will be tasked with keeping St. Louis in check on Saturday.
With No. 2 starter Sonny Gray sidelined until mid-April due to back spasms, Mahle moves up a spot. The 26-year-old impressed with a 2-2 record and 3.59 ERA in 10 appearances (nine starts) last season.
Mahle is 1-3 with a 5.45 ERA in eight career starts against St. Louis and will be facing 39-year-old Adam Wainwright. The crafty veteran looked sharp in spring training with a 2.42 ERA in six games.
Wainwright owns a 10-13 record and 5.12 ERA in 34 career games (29 starts) against the Reds and has struggled to contain first baseman Joey Votto (.333 with four homers in 57 at-bats).
One of the few question marks for St. Louis was addressed earlier this week when manager Mike Shildt said Alex Reyes will receive the bulk of the save opportunities this month. With Jordan Hicks easing back into action following Tommy John surgery, Reyes pitched the ninth inning on Thursday in a non-save situation.
While Cincinnati was battling uphill all afternoon on Opening Day, there were a few positives. Right fielder Nick Castellanos continued his hot streak from spring training with three hits, including a two-run blast.
The Reds also received a boost from rookie second baseman Jonathan India, who had two hits in his major-league debut.
“It looked like he was very, very comfortable on a major-league field, on our team,” Bell said. “It helps that he knows who he is. He’s confident. He comes right in. He’s a big part of this team, he’s ready not only on the field but in the clubhouse.”
Bell is awaiting word on center fielder Nick Senzel, who exited Thursday’s game with a left shoulder injury after making a diving catch in the fourth inning. The 25-year-old is listed as day-to-day, and Bell expressed optimism that he could return this weekend.
–Field Level Media