Bryan Price didn’t know quite what to expect because, after all, the Reds manager hadn’t seen that much of Adam Duvall before Cincinnati picked up the former University of Louisville star in a trade late last season. But, said Price, he sure didn’t expect this.
“I don’t know if anybody could have expected 15 homers in the first third of the season from a guy who was really kind of a platoon outfielder to start the year,” Price said on Saturday, adding, “The ball just jumps off his bat.”
Because the 27-year-old Duvall has jumped at the opportunity, something he did again Saturday, increasing that home run number to 16 with a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning that gave the Reds a 6-3 win over the visiting Washington Nationals.
Acquired along with pitcher Keury Mella for pitcher Mike Leake at the July 30 trade deadline last season, Duvall had played in just 55 major-league games before this season, hitting just .204 with eight homers and 14 RBI. He began this year platooning with another Reds newcomer, Scott Schebler, but by early May, Schebler was at Triple-A Louisville and Duvall was the regular left fielder.
After the Reds’ 10-9 loss to Washington on Sunday, Duvall was hitting .265 with 14 doubles, 16 homers and 35 RBI. He’s second in the National League in slugging at .608.
“I worked my butt in the offseason,” Duvall said Saturday. “I just wanted to make the most of the opportunity and I wanted to win the job. I didn’t want to settle for a platoon.”
A star at Butler High School in Louisville, Duvall stayed at home and played middle infield for the hometown Cardinals. He was drafted in the 11th round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Giants. He hit for power in the Giants’ farm system but also showed a high tendency to swing and miss. His progress was also hindered by some health problems that went unexplained until Duvall was diagnosed with Type I diabetes in 2012. He now uses an insulin pump he keeps in his back pocket.
He was playing in the middle of the game with Sacramento, the Giants’ Triple-A club, when he was told of the trade with the Reds — “It took me by shock,” he said — and his first thought was that Cincinnati would bring him back closer to his friends and family.
I think the thing that has impressed me is that he really hasn’t changed his approach. He’s not going out there and saying, ‘OK, I’m going to try and lift everything and hit homers.’
Reds Manager Bryan Price on Adam Duvall
“We were very aware of what he was accomplishing in Sacramento before we got him, but then he came to Louisville and didn’t really hit much,” Price said. “Then he came up to the big leagues and he hit a few homers but not so much for (batting) average.”
This year, with the offseason work paying off, Duvall has hit for both. Duvall, who has nine homers in his last 14 games, entered Sunday tied for fourth in the major leagues in that category.
“I think the thing that has impressed me is that he really hasn’t changed his approach,” Price said. “He’s not going out there and saying, ‘OK, I’m going to try and lift everything and hit homers.’”
“I’m seeing the ball pretty well right now and, overall, swinging at some good pitches,” Duvall said. “That’s what I’ve got to continue to do.”
He’s also surprised the Reds with his defense, something Duvall said he worked to improve. “That’s another thing that has exceeded my expectations coming into the year,” Price said.
The year isn’t over, however. Duvall said he knows things can turn quickly and, “You try to stay even keel. You get too high, you get too low, bad things happen.”
So far, however, Duvall has seized his opportunity and then some.
“I wanted to come in and just push the envelope a little bit and see what I could do,” he said. “I ended up playing well and won the slot. I’m pretty happy with that.”