De La Cruz makes impressive debut after call-up from minors

Published 10:30 pm Saturday, June 10, 2023

By Jim Walker

CINCINNATI — He might not be a normal talent, but he has normal feeling.

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Rookie sensation Elly De La Cruz had an impressive start to his major league baseball career as he helped the Cincinnati Reds take 2-of-3 games from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Playing third base in his debut, De La Cruz walked in his first at-bat and then got a double for his first hit in the Reds come-from-behind walk-off 9-8 win on Tuesday.

“Very emotional. Very excited to be here and, as I said before, just give the team an opportunity to win it and we did that today,” said De La Cruz who was reunited with several of his minor league  teammates.

“It all started when we played in Chattanooga the first time we had good vibes, good energy. It’s just continued on.”

The Reds top prospect and one of the top minor leaguers in all of baseball, De La Cruz was batting .298 with 12 home runs and 36 runs batted in playing in 38 games for Triple-A Louisville when he was called up to the major league club.

A switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate, the 21-year-old shortstop helped the Reds in their comeback win. The Reds fell behind 3-0 in the top of the first, tied the game in the bottom of the first but then saw the Dodgers go up 8-3.

The Reds got within 8-5 and then scored 4 times in the bottom of the ninth to win 9-8 as Matt McLain singled with the bases loaded to drive in the winning run and set off a wild celebration.

De La Cruz and McLain played together at Louisville before McLain was called up 2 weeks ago.

“Yeah, I was very excited about that first hit. As people say, more to come. It was very emotional and exciting, too,” said De la Cruz.

But he wasn’t surprised at the comeback and he even predicted that McLain would get the game-winning hit.

“Once I saw all those walks and things that were happening, I said it’s going to be a walk-off (win). I’ve seen (McLain) do so many things. I even took off all my stuff batting behind him. I already knew that he was going to walk it off right there,” said De La Cruz who had a few words for McLain as they left the field following the postgame celebration.

“I told you that you were going to get the walk-off.

De La Cruz recounted his first game.

“I felt really good at the plate,” said De La Cruz about his debut, but he laughed when he noted his favorite part of the game.

“The walk-off. That’s what gave us the victory.”

The crowd of more than 22,000 on hand was buzzing all night and especially when De La Cruz came to the plate.

“It’s really special when you hear all those fans cheering your name. Now that you’re at the major leagues it’s even more special,” he said.

In his second game on Wednesday, De La Cruz crushed his first big league home run when he belted an 0-1 pitch from Noah Syndergaard that traveled 458-feet. The exit speed was 114.8 miles an hour and landed in the back row of the right field bleachers.

“I knew that ball was gone. I just looked back at my teammates and gave them four (fingers) four (fingers). I din’t know where it landed. I was looking at my teammates,” said De La Cruz.

He later tripled on a ball to right-center that saw him motor from home to third base in 10.83 seconds, the fastest time in the majors this season.

“I’m always thinking about a triple or going to third base once I hit it in the gap. Always. Last night I saw it but the cut off was really quick and I had to stop there,” he said.

The Reds fell behind 6-2 in the game but rallied to tie the game at 6-6 and then win once again as Will Benson hit a 2-run home run in the ninth for the 8-6 win.

“This whole team has some type of vibe. We don’t give up. We’re fighting all the time. We just don’t give up. What can I say. You just put all your work in and see if it works out. You just come out the next day and try to improve on what you did the previous day,” said De La Cruz.

“I’m just thinking about working hard the best I can each day and it’s what I’ll continue to do and keep battling.”

The attention De La Cruz has been getting is coming from all across the United States.

“There’s been a lot of people contacted me and say things to me. I just try to keep focused the best that I can and keep working hard,” he aid.

But the joy ride his a speed bump on Thursday as the Dodgers won 6-0. De La Cruz had an infield hit and stole a base. He said it was quite a challenge going against Los Angeles’ starter and 3-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.

“I was looking for something up in the zone. Obviously, he has a lot of pitches that he knows how to throw well and he was hitting them well Hopefully, the next time I’ll be able to execute my swings better, said De La Cruz who managed to beat out and infield hit and steal a base on the day.

The Reds now go on the road to play at St. Louis.

“Yeah, they’re a good team. It’s the same mentality. Just try to go out and win it, have a positive mentality and try to help the team out,” De La Cru said of his first road trip.