Negron’s versatility makes for valuable asset

Cincinnati Reds third baseman Kris Negron throws to first base from the ground on a single by Colorado Rockies Nolan Arenado in the fifth inning of a baseball game on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014, in Denver. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)

Chris Schneider/AP

CINCINNATI — When somebody asks Kristopher Negron what position he plays on a baseball field, he can say, "Shortstop, third base, second base, first base, left field, center field right field and, if needed, catcher."

And he wouldn’t be lying.

So far this season he has played third base, second base and left field for the Cincinnati Reds and he is prepared for every eventuality.

His locker contains two infielde’s gloves, two outfielder’s glove, a first baseman’s mitt he borrowed from Joey Votto, a catcher’s mitt and a catcher’s mask he borrowed from Neftali Soto.

"My bag is heavily packed for road trips," he said.

And on Sunday morning he was wearing a New York Giants NFL cap. So, if they need a slot receiver, well, "I played high school football and loved it."

Negron, 28 and originally a New Jersey resident, packs all that assorted baseball equipent for every road trip and Manager Bryan Price said if push came to a hard hit in the back that if he needed an emergency catcher Negron probably is his man.

Asked if he had ever caught, Negron said, "In Little League. I was the only one excited about blocking balls in the dirt so they put me back there. I’ve caught a couple of random bullpens, just for the heck of it."

Negron says he carries the mask as self-protection because there are times when the other two catchers, Brayan Pena and Devin Mesoraco, are both playing (Pena at first base, Mesoraco behind the plate) and somebody needs to warm up the pitcher while Mesoraco straps on his gear Negron does that, too, when he isn’t playing.

Of the mask, he says, "I’m too scared to go out there and try to warm up a pitcher throwing sinkers with no mask on," he said. "My parents paid way too much money for my teeth to get them all chipped."

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When told that Price mentioned him as the team’s back-up Johnny Bench, he said, "If I have to do it, I’ll do it. If the opportunity comes up, I’ll do anything."

Before this season, Negron had spent the first seven years of his professional career playing all but four games in the minors. He played four games for the 2012 Reds, but none in 2013.

He was outstanding in spring training this year and nearly made the team, survived until the last cut. Injuries this year gave Negron his chance and since his call-up from Class AAA Louisville he has become a fan favorite because of his all-out hustle and his clearly displayed love for the game.

Asked if Negron has done enough to be part of the Reds next season, Price didn’t dither.

"I think so," he said. "A lot of it is just the fact he plays so many positions so well. He has added a speed component, a defensive component, a pinch-hitting element to strengthen the bench and he has been a reliable starter. He has brought us some strong energy and some defense.

"He really opened our eyes in spring training and he has continued to do so in his opportunities up here," Price added.

Negron, playing third base Saturday night, may have saved the game in the ninth inning with the Reds leading the Mets, 2-1. There were runners on first and second with one out when pinch-runner Eric Young Jr. broke for third and easily stole it. He was called safe.

But the play was challenged and it was discovered that after his foot tagged third base Young lifted it and Negron still had the tag applied and Young was called out.

"Negron is a very heads-up player and doesn’t take anything for granted," said Price. "I hate to say diamond-in-the-rough because he is 28 and has been in player development for an awfully long time."

Price laughed and said, "And you know what? The one position I haven’t played him is shortstop and that’s where he played all year in (Class AAA) Louisville. We have a Gold Glove calibre shortstop in Zack Cozart and there isn’t a lot of playing time out there at shortstop.

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"All I know is that he can play all three outfield spots and all the infield spots, although I don’t think he has played first base," said Price. "But he could, I’m sure. I guess I have to get him behind the plate, too. Everyone goes, ‘Who’s your third catcher,’ and you kind of scratch your head and, well, it might be Kris Negron."

Well, he does have minor leaguer Soto’s glove and mask, ready for use.

"I go out in the outfield every day and shag fly balls so I won’t be surprised one day when I see my name on the lineup card in left field or get told late in the game to go play left or center," he said. "I’m always ready."

Negron was ecstatic when he heard that he probably has earned a spot on the 2015 team, but after riding minor league buses and eating franchise food for eight years he isn’t easing up.

"That’s fun to hear, but I’ll keep working and do my business as I always do and take nothing for granted," he said. "I’ll keep working hard and keep going."

Negron credits playing winter ball in Puerto Rico after last season prepared him for spring training, and gave him two legs up.

"That got my timing down and got me a little bit ahead of the curve," he said. "But I’m not playing winter ball this year. Between rehabbing my knee surgery in 2012 and then going to Puerto Rico, I’ve only been home for about two months in the past three seasons. It’ll be good to spend some time at home (Napa, California)."

It is isn’t surprising that Negron spends so little time at home. His home on the baseball field is shortstop, but he spends time everywhere but there — and absorbs and appreciates every moment of whever he is.