India, Stephenson need to carry more of the load for Reds

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — Jonathan India exceeded expectations by winning the Reds’ second base job and then National League Rookie of the Year.

Rookie Tyler Stephenson last season showed that he could be Cincinnati’s everyday catcher.

Both will try to avoid a sophomore letdown while being asked to carry more of the load in the Reds offense in 2022.

After being stuck at the alternate site during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, India came to camp in 2021 to prove himself.

He won the starting job at second base in spring training while providing the Reds’ offense with a reliable-lead off hitter.

On May 8, India’s batting average dipped to a season-low .208. But then he took off, flirting with the .300 mark and showing surprising power with 21 home runs after hitting 17 in two minor league seasons.

He finished .269/.376/.409 with 57 extra base hits and a team-leading 12 stolen bases.

The 25-year-old India knows he has much more work to do.

“I don’t consider myself established yet,” he said. “I want to improve as a player. I have one year under my belt. I still have to prove myself. All I can do is get better at my game.

“I want to be more consistent at the plate and improve my stolen bases,” said India, who was the seventh overall pick in the 2018 draft out of the University of Florida. “I just need to work and get better every day. I will pick a routine and stick to it.”

Stephenson also found success in his first full season.

A first-round draft pick in 2015, he made his major league debut in 2020, hitting a home run in his first at-bat. Last spring he came to camp trying to stick as a backup catcher behind Tucker Barnhart.

Stephenson not only filled that role, he established himself as a middle-of-the-lineup hitter to the point that the Reds played him at first base to get his bat in the lineup, spelling Joey Votto.

His batted .286 with 21 doubles and 10 homers and instilled so much confidence that the Reds traded Barnhart to the Detroit Tigers.

“I am working on the catching position,” Stephenson said. “I’m working on my catching stance and getting in better position. Other than that, I’m just trying to have fun and make some adjustments, nothing major.”

He wants to reward the Reds for the confidence in him.

“I want to go out there and play as much as I can,“ Stephenson said. “Whatever that is, first base, DH, I don’t care. As long as I can play a lot, I’m fine with that.”

His time behind Barnhart, who won two Gold Gloves, enabled his quick development.

“I learned so much from Tuck,“ the 25-year-old Stephenson said. “He taught me how to be a professional. He came in to work every day. I learned so much about how to catch, how to be a professional.”

The Reds traded Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez before training camp started and lost Nick Castellanos to free agency, making it even more important that the young players reach the next level.


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