(Photo: The Enquirer/Kareem Elgazzar, The Cincinnati Enquirer)
By: Associated Press (Wire Services)
GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Brennan Boesch didn’t mess around once free-agent season began. He signed with the Reds before Thanksgiving.
When you’re coming in on a minor-league deal — like Boesch did — you’re looking for a major opportunity. The Reds offered Boesch one. With the trade of Chris Heisey, the Reds have a severe shortage of power off the bench.
Boesch has 47 career home runs. That’s 17 more than Skip Schumaker and Jason Bourgeois have combined.
“(Boesch) certainly can help us. There’s no doubt about it,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “We have a situation here where we need depth, bench depth, someone who could step in if we need help in the outfield or first base.”
Boesch, a left-handed hitter who has played all three outfield spots, targeted the Reds from the start.
“I had conversations with the Reds in the past,” he said. “It was the sort of place I had some interest in as a visiting player coming over — just the environment at the stadium. I had some experience in the Central Division in the American League. I don’t know if there’s a connection. It’s a place I’ve wanted to play for a while now.”
Boesch was pretty much an every-day player for the Detroit Tigers in 2010, ’11 and ’12. Boesch hit .259/.315/.414 with 42 home runs and 175 RBIs in that three-year run with Detroit.
Boesch left the Tigers as a free agent. He signed with the New York Yankees. He hit .275 with three home runs and eight RBIs in just 51 at-bats before being released on July 22.
He was signed by the Los Angeles Angels to a minor-league deal before last season. He spent most of the year at Triple-A Salt Lake City, where he put up some monster numbers. He hit .332 with 25 home runs and 85 RBIs in 95 games. He led the Pacific Coast League in hitting, slugging (.636) and on-base plus slugging (1.017).
The key was being healthy. Boesch was dealing with a shoulder injury in 2013. He also had thumb surgery in 2011.
“It was good to be back playing consistently after an injury or two the years prior,” Boesch said. “I felt healthy and got run out there on a regular basis. Those two things led to some big numbers. It kind of restored the joy I have in the game.
“Being healthy is a huge part of the game. I’ve been working on preventing injuries now. If you do prevention as a lifestyle, it helps.”
Boesch is only 29. Boesch, like Price, played college ball at the University of California.
“I love to see his best years sitting in front of him, rather than think they’re past him,” Price said. “We’ve gotten to know each other a little bit. I think he’s really happy to be here and have this opportunity. I think coming off that season he had in Triple-A, he was really enjoyed playing baseball and he was healthy.”
“I like to see him out there doing what he does. He kind of got banged up and lost his way a little bit. He feels and we feel maybe his best days are ahead of him.”
Boesch went 2-for-2 with an RBI in his Reds’ spring debut.
“It’s going well. The body feels good and it’s a great group of guys to be around,” Boesch said. “It’s just getting under way. The fun’s about to start.”
One of the keys for Boesch is playing first base. The Reds would like to have a backup for Joey Votto. Last year when Votto missed 99 games, Todd Frazier shifted from third to first or Brayan Pena shifted from catcher to first.
“I’d like (Boesch) to be able to do it,” Price said. “It certainly increases his value. It’s the same as when we had Ramon Santiago playing a little bit of left field last year in spring training. If push came to shove, it would be nice if he could go out there and handle the position if necessary.
“He’s played some first base in the past — not professionally. I think if you’re left-handed, you play first base. We’ve talked to him about it. He’ll be working with Freddie Benavides and Jay (Bell) to get re-initiated to the position.”
Boesch is ready to try first.
“I’ve been an emergency first baseman,” he said. “I’ve worked out there quite a bit, but I haven’t gotten a lot of game action. I played it college some — not consistently. It’s been a while. I feel excited for the challenge. I know I can get the job done.”