E.A. Sports Today

Shed-ding the mask

Reds prospect Long making transition to second base with extended spring training

Former Jacksonville standout Shed Long checks out the glove he'll be using in his transition to second base at extended spring training with the Reds.

Former Jacksonville standout Shed Long checks out the glove he’ll be using in his transition to second base at extended spring training with the Reds.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Four days before the end of spring training Shed Long got called to the office of the Reds’ minor-league coordinator.

If this were football, that type call would mean only one thing. Coach wants to see you – and bring your playbook.

Long had an idea what the conversation was going to be about, and it wasn’t about that.

The man on the other side of the desk told the former Jacksonville High standout he was going to an extended spring training with an eye toward moving him out from behind the plate to second base.

He is scheduled to return to Goodyear, Ariz., Tuesday morning to spend about three weeks at his new position before starting his season at second base for the Reds’ Class A affiliate in Dayton, Ohio.

Long spent Monday taking ground balls from Jacksonville coach David Deerman at Henry Farm Park. He estimated he has taken 800 ground balls in the week since the Reds’ revealed to him their plan.

“They were like ‘we’ve all talked about it, we feel like your bat is too well; catcher’s hiding your bat,’” Long said. “They asked me how I felt about it. I told them I’m still playing baseball; that’s all I want to do.”

The Reds drafted Long two years ago (12th round) as a catcher because that’s where they saw him excel in a travel-ball tournament; two weeks later he was playing in their organization. He caught for Jacksonville early in his career, but was an infielder for the Golden Eagles his senior year, although he did go behind the plate when they needed a sure-handed backstop in the late innings of tight games.

He was a catcher every day in spring training this year — playing every other day — until the bosses called him in to change positions. He has been working with former Reds great Barry Larkin in the infield ever since.

“The past two years we’ve had talks about me playing a little bit of second,” Long said. “This year we never talked about it, and then all of a sudden they called me in the office and said we’re moving you to second. I really feel like the way I hit in spring it really pushed them to make the decision.”

This spring he said he had a game in which he hit homers in back-to-back at-bats against high-A pitching.

Deerman believes Long will have a smooth transition.

“I don’t think there will be any problem,” he said. “I said the whole time he was more natural at second base, as good a catcher as he is.”

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