CINCINNATI — The benefit of a strong bench wasted no time showing itself Thursday when the Cincinnati Reds opened the season with a 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park.
Two of the Reds stars were Jose Iglesias and Derek Dietrich, recent Major League Baseball players signed in the offseason to shore up the bench.
Igelesias started at shortstop when Jose Peraza moved to second base to replace injured Scooter Gennett. The former Boston Red Sock and Detroit Tiger known for his slick fielding and middling bat, went 2-for-3, doubled twice, drove in one run and scored another.
Dietrich, an infielder/outfielder known more for his bat and versatility than his glove, smashed a three-run, pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning to give Cincinnati a lead it never relinquished.
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.
“That was a great start to his career in Cincinnati,” Reds manager David Bell said of Dietrich’s homer off Richard Rodriguez. “Derek Dietrich is such a good player off the bench.”
Bell then turned his attention to Iglesias, who likely will be a starter for six to eight weeks while Gennett recovers from a groin injury suffered in Spring Training.
“We can’t wait to get Scooter back, but to have Jose puts us in a much better situation than we would have been in without him,” Bell said.
Cincinnati signed Dietrich on Feb. 19, nearly two months after the Miami Marlins cut him in a cost-saving measure. The Tigers granted Iglesias free agency in October 2018 rather than pay him more than $7 million. The Reds signed him four days after acquiring Dietrich.
In addition to those two players who were starters last season, Cincinnati’s bench features outfielder Matt Kemp, a 2018 All-Star acquired via trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, catcher Curt Casali and catcher/infielder Kyle Farmer — also picked up in the Kemp trade.
That’s a significantly improved reserve squad compared to the one fielded by Cincinnati on Opening Day in 2018 when the bench was made up of Devin Mesoraco, Cliff Pennington, Phil Gosselin, Phil Ervin and Adam Duval.
None of those players began the 2019 season on a major league roster.
“It’s part of having the depth, we know how important it is to have it over the course of a full season,” Bell said.