The Reds reinstated third baseman Mike Moustakas from the 60-day injured list this afternoon. He’s in the lineup tonight against the Pirates, hitting fifth and starting at third base. Utilityman Mike Freeman was optioned to Triple-A Louisville to clear an active roster spot. To create 40-man roster space, Cincinnati transferred reliever Michael Feliz from the 10-day to the 60-day injured list.
It’s a welcome time for Cincinnati to get Moustakas back, as they enter play today having closed the gap on the Padres to 3.5 games in the race for the National League’s final Wild Card spot. It’ll be Moustakas’ first game action in nearly three months, as the 32-year-old landed on the shelf with a right heel issue on May 20. He embarked on a minor league rehab assignment a few weeks later but re-aggravated the injury in mid-June.
Before the injury, Moustakas was hitting at a decent but unspectacular level. He’s managed a .241/.337/.437 line over 104 plate appearances after putting up a .230/.331/.468 mark last season, his first in Cincinnati. The Reds signed Moustakas with hopes of moving the longtime third baseman over to second. With Jonathan India now in the majors and performing very well at the keystone, Moustakas has played exclusively in the corner infield in 2021.
That’ll continue to be the case, albeit with a twist relative to earlier in the season. The Reds opened the year with Moustakas at third and Eugenio Suárez at shortstop. Suárez struggled mightily in his move up the defensive spectrum, though, and kicked back over to third after Moustakas went down (with Kyle Farmer getting the bulk of playing time at short). The generally-productive Suárez has had a miserable season at the plate as well, and he’s now set to lose some playing time. Manager David Bell told reporters (including Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer) that the Reds will platoon the lefty-hitting Moustakas and right-handed Suárez, at least for the immediate future.
Suárez was one of the game’s top power threats between 2018-19, when he hit .277/.362/.550 and popped a combined 83 home runs. That lofty offensive output fell to league average last season, and he owns a .177/.260/.379 mark over 438 plate appearances this year. Suárez has hit another 22 homers, but he’s striking out at a career-worst 30.4% clip while walking in 8.9% of his trips to the plate, his lowest rate since 2016.
With the Reds in a playoff race, it makes sense to curtail Suárez’s workload a bit as he continues to struggle. He’s still under contract for $11MM per season from 2022-24 under the terms of the extension he signed in March 2018. It stands to reason he’ll get another extended look at some point, but installing Moustakas into the lineup against right-handed pitching should give the offense a boost in the short term.
Feliz’s transfer to the 60-day IL is a formality, as he has been out since June 8 with a right elbow sprain. He’s out for sixty days from the time of his original placement, so he’ll be eligible for activation whenever he’s ready to return. Feliz is currently rehabbing with Louisville, so he should be back in relatively short order. That’s also true of fellow bullpen mate Lucas Sims, who could be back with the big league club as soon as this weekend, according to Bell (via Nightengale).