MLB Opening Day 2019: Under-the-radar offseason acquisitions come up big for the Reds
The Reds' opening day heroes: Jose Iglesias and Derek Dietrich
CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Reds are 1-0 to start the 2019 campaign and the heroes of the day happened to be two newcomers that many casual fans might not have even known were on the roster.
Many throughout the offseason have touted the Reds as a possible breakout team. There were already signs late last season that they were ready to get back at least on the cusp of contention and then came a big offseason. They added well-known veterans like Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark and Alex Wood.
They made two sneaky-good additions to bolster depth, too.
On Feb. 19, they signed utility man Derek Dietrich to a minor-league deal. He was coming off a season with a 112 OPS+ and 16 homers. He's played first, second, third and outfield at different points in recent years. Not getting any MLB offers was a head scratcher and the Reds took advantage of the market.
Four days later, they added shortstop Jose Iglesias, also on a minor-league deal. He's not been much of a hitter for a while, but he's still an excellent defensive shortstop and was a nice addition to be a backup.
"It's part of having the depth, we know how important it is to have it over the course of a full season," first-year manager David Bell said. "We can't wait to get Scooter back, but to be in the situation where we can have a player like Jose Iglesias step in, it put us in a much better situation than we could've been."
Iglesias came through in unexpected fashion, too, on the offensive end. The Reds took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Iglesias doubled home Peraza.
With a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the seventh, Iglesias again doubled, giving the Reds runners on second and third with no out. Bell summoned Dietrich to pinch hit for the pitcher spot.
"Derek Dietrich adds such a good player off the bench," Bell said.
He was perfectly deployed, too.
What a debut.
"Such a huge home run for Derek," Bell said. "I'm just really happy for him. A great way for him to start his career in Cincinnati."
A three-run, pinch-hit, go-ahead blast in the late innings leading to a curtain call is about as perfect an Opening Day a player can have. Not only was it the first curtain call of Dietrich's career, he said he's only even seen one for a teammate before (I'll wager Giancarlo Stanton during his monster home run streak with the Marlins in 2017).
"I've only seen maybe one on my side in my career," said Dietrich. "I really didn't know -- all the guys were yelling 'Get up there, get up there,' so for me to do something like that in my first day with a new organization ... I don't think I could have written it up any better."
Dietrich said it was especially fun for him to be back in his home state (he was born and raised in Cleveland, on the other end of Ohio).
"I'm blessed and I'm thankful to be here," he said. "I'm right where I want to be and where I'm supposed to be, with the Cincinnati Reds."
In a 5-3 win, Iglesias and Dietrich combined for three of the Reds' seven hits, two of their five runs, three of their five extra-base hits and four of their five RBI.
Not too shabby for two minor-league signings in late February, huh?
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