GOODYEAR, Ariz. — No more arepas. No more beer. No sugars, sauces or salsa.
That summed up the offseason for Cincinnati Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who says he lost 15 pounds heading into his eighth season in the big leagues and seventh with the Reds.
“I just tried to keep my body healthy,” Suarez said. “I understand my body is very important if I want to play in the big leagues for a long time.”
After a career year in 2019 — 49 home runs, 103 RBIs and a .271 average — Suarez saw his production decline in the 60-game season of 2020. He hit .202 with 15 runs and 33 RBIs.
Suarez, 29, was one reason the Reds ranked last in the National League with a .212 team batting average.
“Last year for me was tough,” Suarez said. “I’m talking about everything. Overall. My body didn’t feel very good last year, and I felt like I was slow. My footwork wasn’t good. This offseason, in my house, with my family, talking about my future in the game, I understood if I didn’t do anything for my body, I wouldn’t play as long as I wanted. I just want to play as long as I can. I know I can’t control that, but I control my body. That’s why I’m doing this. Right now, I feel so good. My energy is high. It’s a new version of myself. I worked so hard in the offseason.”
The unique nature of last season also played a part in Suarez’s struggles. There were no fans in the stands, not even family members. Suarez also had a shoulder issue that was on his mind. He thought about the shoulder a lot and didn’t want to re-injure it.
The Reds played their first game of spring training Sunday against the Cleveland Indians and lost 5-1. Suarez was 0 for 1 with a walk in two plate appearances.
Suarez said he’s strong and healthy. His goal in 2021 is to set a new career high in home runs. No Red has hit 50 home runs since George Foster set the team record with 52 in 1977.
“I feel like this is going to be a special year for me,” Suarez said. “I’ll go for 50 homers. I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but I’ll go for 50.”
The Reds enjoyed a winning season (31-29) and reached the playoffs last season for the first time since Suarez came to the franchise in 2015. He went 2-for-9 with a walk and four strikeouts as the Reds were swept in two games by the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series.
All the key hitters who helped lead the Reds to 11 victories in their last 14 games return this season, and Suarez should make his sixth straight Opening Day start. The Reds haven’t had a third baseman start that many openers in a row since Chris Sabo (1988-93).
“I’m so excited for this year and so happy to be here and around the boys,” Suarez said. “Everybody has got a new good energy, and I bring my energy to everybody — you know my good vibes only. That’s me, man. I want to be the best Suarez I can be, the best ever this year.”
The Cincinnati Reds were happy to hear Ohio governor Mike DeWine’s announcement last week that outdoor sports events will be allowed to have crowds of up to 30 percent of stadium capacity.
“We are excited to welcome fans back to the ballpark to kick off the season on Opening Day,” said Phil Castellini, Reds president and chief operating officer. “We thank Gov. DeWine and the officials at the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County for their guidance and cooperation throughout the planning process.”
Fans will be required to wear face masks at Great American Ball Park unless they are eating or drinking in their seats.
All tickets will be issued digitally via the MLB Ballpark app to allow for contactless entry.
DeWine added that if the state’s COVID-19 situation improves this spring and summer, more spectators could be allowed. However, he also addressed concerns about a more contagious COVID variant that’s been detected in Ohio.
“We’re going to watch it and we’re going to watch the early signs,” he said. “We just have to be careful as we move forward and we have to do it with good common sense.”
(The Associated Press also contributed to this story.)