Kristopher Negron: The Cincinnati Reds ‘jackknife of all trades’
Kristopher Negron is Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price’s personal Swiss Army Knife. Whatever Price needs on the baseball field, Negron is equipped to handle it with every tool he needs.
Need a left fielder? Kristopher Negron.
Need a right fielder? Kristopher Negron.
Need a third baseman? Kristopher Negron.
Need a second baseman? Kristopher Negron.
Need a first baseman? Kristopher Negron.
And right now Price needs a shortstop because Zack Cozart is medicating a sore wrist.
Shortstop? Perfect. That’s Negron’s home position, the one he played all his life, the one he prefers. But with Cozart manning the position, Negron has played everywhere but shortstop the last couple of seasons.
To cover all contingencies, Negron carries more gloves than a visitor to the South Pole. "I carry six gloves on the road," said Negron. "An infielder’s glove, an outfielder’s glove and a first baseman’s mitt, plus a back-up glove to each one that I am breaking in."
During Cozart’s absence Negron has shown that shortstop is his home base, his go-to position, his comfort zone He has made some startlingly excellent Cozart-like plays.
During batting practice, Negron works out at first base, takes some fly balls in the outfield, "But I always end up at shortstop because that’s my favorite place," he said.
Price is most appreciative of Negron’s versatility and willingness to run to whatever position he is assigned, like a kid in a t-ball game.
"Everyone in our system told me over the last couple of years that shortstop is Negron’s best position," said Price. "But with Cozart at shortstop he hasn’t had a lot of opportunities to play short. He has been wonderful. He is athletic, has enough arm strength and he understands the position more than I realized until I put him out there. Then I could see what everybody in our development system was talking about."
Negron, a 29-year-old seventh round draft pick by the Boston Red Sox in 2006, breaks into a broad grin when shortstop is the subject of choice.
"I’m a natural shortstop and played it since I was a kid, in high school, in college and in the minors," he said. "But I’m filling in for a Gold Glove shortstop in Cozart and I’m just trying to field every ball the way he would."
With the Reds, it has been third base, second base, left field, right field and first base — very little shortstop — but Negron is most comfortable at shortstop, "Because I’ve played it forever. Even though I play all those other positions, I definitely go back to shortstop every day in batting practice. I have the instincts that take over at shortstop.
"There are a lot of little things you have to do at shortstop," he said. "You have to understand what everybody on the field is doing, you take control of situations. But I welcome that challenge, even though I never want to see Cozart go down.
"Whenever I can help out the team, help out the pitcher, by making a nice defensive play, it always feels good," he said. "But hits are fun, too. I like hits, even though I haven’t gotten too many of them so far."
Negron entered Tuesday’s game against the Atlanta Braves hitting about 100 points below his weight at .103.
"And that frustrates me because I feel good, I feel like I’m swinging good, I’m hitting the ball but nothing is falling," he said. "I’m excited about it because I know a lot of hits are coming."
Negron says shortstop is where all the action is and he loves being in the middle of swirling activity, "But I’m ready to play anywhere, as I’ve shown. But when my name is called to play shortstop I’m excited."
Negron has never played much first base but found himself there a couple of times this season and said, "First base is kind of fun. I like it a lot. But I take reps everywhere, so I’m indifferent and just happy to be out there wherever it is. The days I’m not playing I’ll go out early and take a lot of ground balls at all the positions."
Negron hasn’t caught and hasn’t pitched, but said, "I’ll always be ready. I’ve caught Mike Leake between innings and I caught a lot of bullpens in (Class AAA) Louisville. I don’t know about pitching, but I’ll always be ready."
That’s just another blade on the human Swiss Army Knife that Price always has at his disposal and Negron clearly is capable of using every blade and tool.
"Whatever I’m told to do, I’ll do. It keeps it fun," he said. Then he grabbed an armful of leather and headed for the dugout. Who knows? He started at shortstop, but maybe they’ll need him at first base. Or even catcher. But that would mean borrowing Devin Mesoraco’s glove and mask, "But I’d do it," he said.