By Jose M. Romero / @RomeroJoseM
For Fox Deportes
There was never a question of whether Yonder Alonso could hit. It’s a big reason the San Diego Padres last December traded top starting pitcher Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds for Alonso, a former first-round pick, and a collection of other prospects and a veteran.
The plan from the jump was to give Alonso the starting first base job, despite him having played only 69 games in the majors for the Reds in 2010 and 2011 combined.
Alonso mashed in 47 games last season, batting .330 with five home runs and 15 runs batted in in just 88 at-bats. The native of Cuba who was raised near Miami came with good credentials, and he’s showing signs of becoming a reliable middle-of-the-order hitter for the Padres as they build for the future.
Alonso’s already appeared in 78 games this season as of Independence Day, which tops his total from the previous two years, and before the Padres’ July 4 game was batting .257 in 276 at-bats, .295 against left-handed pitchers.
“Baseball is all about adjusting, and it’s been more of a ‘I’m learning and I’m playing at the same time’ type of thing this season,” Alonso said. “I’m adjusting to the league, I’m learning how guys are and it’s just working every day with a positive attitude and just learn as much as possible while I’m playing the game at the big league level. Learning how pitchers make an adjustment to you and how you’re making an adjustment to them.”
Alonso is just 25 with a bright future ahead of him. He’s glad to be settled into one position, first base, instead of being used there and in the outfield when he was with the Reds’ organization.
“It’s been obviously a lot easier on my body and myself mentally. It’s a position I’ve played all my life so it’s been good,” he said.
You couldn’t blame Alonso for being excited when he was traded to the Padres. He knew it instantly meant more playing time. He also recognizes that he’s a part of the present and future of a Padres team that is struggling, at 32-50 on July 4, but is developing a younger core of players that might bring about a future era of success.
“All of us, I speak for everybody here, every day we go out there and try to learn as much as possible,” Alonso said. “But I think you can see that things are changing a little bit and things are heading in the right direction.”
The Padres were 8-4 between June 22 and July 3. Padres manager Bud Black is seeing growth in his first baseman.
“It’s good for Yonder to get major-league experience regularly,” Black said. “Every at-bat is a good one for him. He’s the guy with the first crack to show what he can do.”
Defensively, Alonso’s eight errors are high for a first baseman and the most on the club. But he has a presence in the clubhouse, as one of several Latino Padres who chat in Spanish and spend time around someone’s stall before games.