Discover more from The Riverfront by Chad Dotson
Elly De La Cruz is a comic book superhero...and he has arrived in Cincinnati
Also: How about Andrew Abbott?
Sometimes life throws you a curveball. Kinda like the curves Reds rookie pitcher Andrew Abbott tossed on Monday, when he dazzled in his big league debut. Abbott, who just turned 24 this week, didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning, and he only surrendered one lone hit to the Brewers in six innings of work. It was an exciting moment for the kid, and an exciting moment for Reds fans who are getting used to watching cool new prospects emerge onto the scene and make their mark.
I’ve actually been watching Abbott pitch for a few years now. He was a star at my alma mater (Virginia), and his final start as a college pitcher — in the College World Series — was pretty unforgettable. I was thrilled when the Reds drafted him in the second round.
It was only natural then, that I would choose to write about Abbott’s great debut and introduce Reds fans to him in my weekly column over at the Mother Ship. It was published today, with this headline: MEET YOUR NEWEST REDS ROOKIE STAR, ANDREW ABBOTT.
Hey, it’s an exciting story, right? Matt McLain debuted earlier this year and has been great. Andrew Abbott is the best pitching prospect in the organization, and he looked great. We need fun things to cheer for.
Less than an hour after the Magazine published the column, it became obsolete. Abbott was no longer the “newest Reds rookie star.” No, that moniker now belongs to Elly De La Cruz.
After a brilliant performance at Triple-A, the Reds announced yesterday that they were promoting the 21 year-old De La Cruz — perhaps the best prospect in all of baseball — to the big leagues. Soon thereafter, we were informed that Elly was in the starting lineup, and he would be batting cleanup. And everyone lost their ever-loving minds.
The Reds ticket website crashed in the immediate aftermath of the announcement. #RedsTwitter went insane. And that was before the kid even arrived in the Queen City.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about an earlier version of Elly Mania. This is really unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. I remember when Jay Bruce was called up, and that was pretty crazy. I was actually in New York for a Reds-Yankees series shortly after Bruce, also the top prospect in baseball, was called up. Bruce was hitting .318/.406/.511 with 4 home runs and 12 RBI in his first 23 games at that point. Mrs. Dotson and I were wandering around the theater district after seeing a show, and there were at least four people wearing Bruce “shirseys” and more people wearing Reds caps. We’re talking 2008 here, and the Reds hadn’t been good for nearly a decade. That was fun.
Homer Bailey’s call-up was pretty wild too. Many of the kids won’t remember, but there was some serious hype around Homer. There was a billboard on I-71 between Louisville and Cincinnati that featured Homer and a flaming baseball. (Because he threw the ball fast. Get it?)
I guess there has been some hype around other debuts too — Hunter Greene, for example. But you may have to go back to the 80s, with guys like Kal Daniels and, earlier, Eric Davis to find excitement like there is around Elly. I’ve said this before, but Davis is the guy I think of every time I watch Elly play, and not only because Davis and De La Cruz each had uniform #44 on their backs.
I’m certain that we’ll be discussing Elly often in this space, and over at Cincinnati Magazine. He’s a comic book superhero, after all. But there will be moments when he struggles. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true. All rookies struggle occasionally.
But after what I saw in game one, I’m even more excited about this kid than I was before. First of all, the stadium was absolutely electric. The last time there was that much energy in the stadium was probably 2014, when Todd Frazier won the Home Run Derby at Great American Ball Park. And when Elly came to the plate for the first time, he received a standing ovation.
Are you kidding me? A standing ovation before you have even seen a pitch in the big leagues?
Then, something strange happened in that first at-bat. During every single pitch, the stadium was silent. Everyone was dialed in. I don’t remember ever seeing that before. No one wanted to miss a single moment.
Now, you wouldn’t have been surprised if all of this pomp and circumstance were too much for a 21 year-old kid. It’s a lot to take in! But Elly De La Cruz didn’t seem to be overwhelmed by the moment at all. Well, that’s not actually true. On the very first pitch, in the first inning with two runners on base, Elly swung wildly at a pitch that was outside the strike zone. He seemed a little overeager, perhaps wanting to make an immediate impact.
Quickly, he was down 1-and-2 in the count. And then it was like he remembered that he is ELLY DE LA CRUZ and EDLC can do anything. He stopped swinging at the slop being thrown at him by Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin and worked a walk that loaded the bases. He would ultimately come around to score his first big league run.
In his second at-bat, Elly got down 0-and-2 in the count immediately. And then he turned around a pitch that was up in the zone and drilled it to the right-center field wall. It was his first MLB hit, a double — and it was 112 mph off the bat. No big deal, just the hardest-hit ball by any Reds hitter this year. In his second at-bat.
His third time up, he drew yet another walk, as if to silence the critics who say he doesn’t walk enough. And then, in his fourth AB, Elly finally made an out. He grounded out to second base.
But even that was kinda spectacular! The exit velocity off Elly’s bat was 108.7 mph. The second-hardest hit ball of the night for either team. You can’t make this up.
Again, there will be ups and downs. Peaks and valleys, as Reds GM Nick Krall might say. But for one night, pretty much every Reds fan was united in admiration and excitement for the newest rookie star in Cincinnati.
I’ve been saying all season that this Reds team probably isn’t very good, but they’re definitely fun somehow. Well, they just got a lot more fun. The Elly De La Cruz Era has arrived.
This week at Cincinnati Magazine: Meet Your Newest Reds Rookie Star, Andrew Abbott
You likely know by now that Cincinnati’s top pitching prospect, Andrew Abbott, made his first big league start against the Brewers on Monday night. It was an outstanding debut in many respects. After throwing 53 pitches in the first two innings, Abbott settled in and looked like a confident veteran. He didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning,* and by the time he left the field to an ovation from the 13,687** in attendance he’d tossed six shutout innings, allowing just the one hit.
*Last Reds pitcher to allow no hits through the first four innings of his MLB debut: Johnny Cueto in 2008, according to Reds statistician Joel Luckhaupt.
**It was a partial sellout.
It was not, however, the first time I’d been mesmerized by Abbott’s ability and potential on the mound. I don’t remember the first time I watched him pitch; I know it was at some point in 2018, but I just can’t recall the precise game.
I do remember the last time I watched a full Abbott start before he finally strode onto the field wearing a Cincinnati Reds uniform. It was less than two years ago on a late June Sunday night in Omaha, Nebraska, when Abbott’s University of Virginia Cavaliers faced off against Tennessee in the College World Series opener back in 2021. Before 22,000-plus excited fans, Abbott was brilliant, spinning six shutout innings, allowing only five hits and striking out 10. Read the rest of this week’s Reds column over at Cincinnati Magazine.
What’s Chad Watching?
Only two movies this week, but it was a good time to be in the theater. “The Machine” is comedian Bert Kreischer’s first film (I think?), and it was pretty good! His standup routine is hit or miss for me — he’s usually pretty funny, but the “taking off my shirt” schtick is a little tiresome at this point. But “The Machine” had a number of laugh out loud moments, and the production values were actually pretty good! I recommend it if you like to laugh.
(NOTE: I actually went to the theater to see the re-issue of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on the big screen for the first time. But it wasn’t included in my Regal membership. (Yeah, I’m that guy.) So I went to see “The Machine” instead. I’ve seen Raiders a thousand times anyway, I guess.)
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is the follow-up to 2018’s brilliant “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” I saw someone call it the most beautiful one-half of a movie of the year, and that’s pretty accurate. It’s only half of a movie, but it’s unlike anything else you’ll see this year. I don’t think it’s quite as good as the original, which I loved, but it’s good. Really good.
I see movies like this and I wonder why every single comic book and super hero movie isn’t animated like this one. It’s good stuff.
The Riverfront by Chad Dotson is a reader-supported publication. Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.