MILWAUKEE – As teammates stretched and played catch in left field before Saturday’s game at American Family Field, Jose Barrero was called in for early work with hitting coach Alan Zinter at home plate.
For about 30 minutes, it was one-on-one instruction for Barrero, who was called up from Triple-A to be the Cincinnati Reds’ everyday shortstop for the final two months of the season.
Barrero took many swings with Zinter. He hit a pitch. He swung at underhand throws with Zinter protected by an L-screen 15 feet away. He sprayed balls to all parts of the field. The goal was to shorten his swing and improve his posture so he could recognize pitches better.
In the top of the fourth inning, Barrero was rewarded with his first career home run. Two innings later, he made it two career home runs as he lifted the Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
“Ball practice isn’t everything, but he’s definitely taken what he’s been working on into the game,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Usually, it doesn’t work like that. Usually, it’s kind of a delayed reaction. He took it right into the game. It speaks volumes to the type of athlete he is.”
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Barrero became the second batter in Reds history to hit his first two career home runs in the same game, joining Harry Steinfeldt, who did it on July 31, 1900 in Boston, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
About five minutes into the game, Barrero walked outside the visitor’s clubhouse and ran into a young Brewers fan, Charlie. He traded a signed bat for his first home run ball, which he clutched when he made a FaceTime call with family afterward.
“I’d like to dedicate it to my mom,” said Barrero, who changed her last name from Garcia last year to honor her late mother, Tania. “I will give it to my brother, who has been with me side by side through all this. It will go with him.”
For better or worse, the development of young players will be the most important part of the Reds’ season after the trade deadline. The Reds need to give the 24-year-old Barrero time to adjust to Major League pitching and find out if he is their shortstop of the future.
One pitch short of Barrero’s first home run, he missed a potential double by a couple of feet. Brewers lefty Aaron Ashby didn’t take advantage, leaving a 94-mph fastball over the middle of the plate and Barrero pumped a 408-footer past the center field wall.
“Hopefully something clicks for him,” Bell said, “because it’s really, really, just a matter of time.”
Barrero, homering for the first time in 125 career major league at-bats, smiled as he approached third base coach JR House and his smile widened as he greeted base runner Albert Almora Jr. at home plate.
After he was congratulated in the dugout, getting a hug from Almora and pats on the helmet from Kyle Farmer, Barrero made a heart with his hands and said something as he looked to the sky, a dedication to his mom.
“It’s my first home run, so I was circling the bases and I just felt all the emotions come through,” Barrero said through interpreter Jorge Merlos. “It felt incredible.”
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The Reds have seen star potential from Barrero for years. He was called up at the end of the 2020 season and made the playoff roster despite never playing above A ball in the minor leagues. Returning to the minors in 2021, he won the organization’s minor league player of the year.
A hamstring injury that required surgery cost Barrero a chance to earn a spot on the Reds’ Opening Day roster this year. He didn’t hit well at Triple-A Louisville after he returned, but the Reds will work closely with him at the big league level.
“He hits the ball extremely hard,” Zinter said. “He squares it up. He’s got a quick shake in him. He just has the ability to move the baseball to all parts of the field, so it’s very exciting. That early spring training a few years ago when he left, that was my first. watch him . It was like, ‘wow, there’s something in there’.”
Leading off the sixth inning, Barrero was fed an 88-mph sinker on a 2-0 count by Brewers reliever Hoby Milner. Barrero muscled it over the left-field wall, a 389-foot solo homer.
It was a special day for Barrero, who had just one game in the minor leagues when he homered twice. Aristides Aquino, another player given a bigger role after the trade deadline, reached base twice and threw out a runner at the plate for the fifth time this season.
“You see that genuine smile and the eyes light up a little with excitement,” Zinter said. “Then he had a little more swagger on that next AB. His chest puffed out a little bit, so that’s a good thing. We’ll keep going.”