Alonso hopeful for spring

Reds top prospect Yonder Alonso is excited for his first spring training with the big league squad and ready to play where ever he's needed.

Monday, January 26, 2009
By C. Trent Rosecrans

Reds 2008 first-round pick Yonder Alonso is safely inside the Reds Hall of Fame, but on this 30-degree day, he's still bundled up in a sweater and coat.

Born in Cuba, Alonso has lived in Miami since he was 10. He was drafted by the Twins out of high school, but went to the University of Miami where he became an All-American and obviously hasn't spent much time crunching through snow or worrying about scraping ice off of his car.

"It's pretty chilly," Alonso said last week as he prepared to go on the Reds winter caravan last week.

When informed that it had actually warmed up about 20 degrees in the last couple of days, Alonso’s eyes widened with the look of disbelief.

It probably won't be below freezing when Alonso makes his next appearance in Cincinnati, but he wouldn't mind experiencing the unpredictable early-April Cincinnati weather.

"I've been working very, very hard in the off-season, trying to get ready for spring training and hoping for the best. Hopefully I can make the club there," says Alonso, who has all of 19 minor league at-bats under his belt. "I'll be going early, hopefully I'll raise some eyebrows up there and they'll like me."

Most expect Alonso to start the season at Class AA Carolina, but he's obviously aiming higher.

"You have to have high goals," said Alonso, selected with the seventh-overall pick in June. "I just want to go out there and help the team win, get along with the guys and hopefully give it your best and it works out."

Alonso had a lengthy contract negotiation, finally signing at the August 15 deadline, winding up with a five-year, $4.55 million big league contract that included a $2 million signing bonus. With the big league contract, Alonso is on the 40-man roster and will be in major league camp when players report to Sarasota for spring training next month.

Baseball America recently ranked Alonso as the organization's top prospect. However, his route to the big leagues is hardly clear-cut. Alonso is a first baseman and the Reds already have a young slugger in Joey Votto seemingly entrenched in that position. That, of course, is the biggest question about Alonso, although he said he's not concerned.

"I don't really think about that much. I just go out and give it my all," Alonso said. "I feel if I come here and play my game, my baseball, it's very simple -- just see a ball and hit it. Who knows what else can happen? Just hit it."

In his limited play since being drafted, that's pretty much what Alonso has done. In his six games with Class A Sarasota, Alonso hit .316 with a double in his six hits and two RBIs. He also had five walks and five strikeouts in his 25 plate appearances. Alonso then played in the Hawaiian Winter league, batting .308/.419/.510 with nine doubles, four home runs and 21 RBIs in 29 games and was named a league all-star.

While in Hawaii, Alonso said he played some third base and there were plans of him playing left field that never materialized. Although most believe he's a first baseman only, Alonso said he felt comfortable at third base.

"It feels great. I love it. That's always been my position since high school. I'm looking forward to it,” Alonso said.

However, the Reds haven't said anything to Alonso a change in position.

"I'm just going out there and practicing everywhere," Alonso said. "Wherever they'd like to play me, I don't care. I'm just here to hit, drive guys in and my defense will take care of itself."