Kristopher Negron is the Swiss Army knife for the Reno Aces.
The do-it-all utility player is spotted all over Greater Nevada Field. Through 67 games, Negron has appeared in 34 at second base, 18 at third and a handful in right and center field. His place on the field may be unpredictable, but his .977 fielding percentage is a sure thing.
“It’s something that I take a lot of pride in,” he said. “I try to practice my craft. On that end it’s led me to experiencing different parts of the field.”
Negron owes his defensive flexibility to youth athletics growing up in Fairfield, California.
“I owe it all to playing a bunch of sports when I was younger,” he said. “Whether it’s football, baseball, basketball or even hockey, they helped me keep my athleticism in a bunch of different areas.”
Signing a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016, Negron, 32, is 14th all-time in Aces’ history in games played (186) and third in triples (15).
He was a seventh-round selection out of Cosumnes College in Sacramento, California by the Boston Red Sox in the 2006 MLB draft. Negron flashed his speed for the Class-A Greenville Drive with 25 stolen bases and a team-leading 50 runs scored in 2008. Fast forward a couple of years and his defensive prowess was catching some eyes, rated the best defensive shortstop in the Southern League in Baseball America’s Best Tools 2010 issue.
Negron was shipped 858 miles away to the Blue-Chip City via trade, sending former big-league shortstop Alex Gonzalez to Boston and Negron to the Cincinnati Reds. It wasn’t long before he made his big league debut with the Reds on June 6, 2012 as a pinch-runner. His versatility on the bases and sure-handed glove kept him on the bench for the rest of the season, hitting .250 in four games.
“Ever since I was drafted, I bounced around the league a bit,” he said. “But those experiences with those teams helped me improve as a player and humble me as a person.”
Negron established a more permanent role with the Reds in 2014, hitting .271 with six home runs and 17 RBIs. His versatility was used all over the infield at Great American Ball Park, starting 25 games at third base and 17 at second in 49 games. He appeared in 43 games with the Reds in 2015, hitting .140 in 93 at-bats.
Negron cut ties with the Reds and elected for free agency in 2015, signing a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs. He was immediately placed on Triple-A Iowa, hitting .256 with 33 extra base-hits and 23 stolen bases in 2016. From there, Negron has settled down in the Biggest Little City.
“We are around each other as a team all the time,” Negron said. “I’ve gotten to know the guys like Ildemaro Vargas and it’s established a connection both on and off the field.”
He is also a mentor with the guys in the clubhouse.
“I just try to teach and lead by example,” Negron said. “From there, we can figure things out and communicate better as a unit.”
His experience and leadership qualities are translating to wins for the Aces.
Negron made his Diamondbacks’ debut during the tail-end of 2017, appearing in 14 games. He also was called up briefly this season, going 1-for-3 with an RBI in two games for Arizona. When the Dbacks acquired outfielder Jon Jay, Negron was out of options and designated for assignment. A week later, he was back in Reno.
Yasmany Tomas and All Star Socrates Brito power Aces
Yasmany Tomas smacked a pair of doubles and collected four RBIs to lead the Reno Aces to an 8-1 win over the visiting Salt Lake Bees on Thursday night. The Aces took three of the four games in the series against the first-place Bees.
Tomas’ RBI double in the fifth inning put the Aces ahead for good with a 3-1 lead. He added a base-clearing double in the eight inning to cap the night’s scoring. Meanwhile, Socrates Brito showed why he landed a spot on the PCL All-Star Team earlier Thursday, launching his 12th home run of the month in the first inning.
Tomas is comfortable in the designated hitter role this season. He’s hitting .325 (26-for-80) with three home runs, 17 RBIs and 14 runs scored. His below-average speed and arm keep him out of the lineup against National League opponents on most days.
A confident Tomas can make the Cuban slugger a trade candidate during the MLB deadline. That is, if the Dbacks can unload the $46 million remaining on his six-year deal signed in 2014.
Pitcher Austin Mason made his first Triple-A start with 4,048 in attendance. Mason was called up to Reno from the Single-A California League. He has a 2-4 record in 24 games, exclusively in relief. On a limited pitch count, Mason tossed two innings, surrendering two hits and three walks with three strikeouts.
He came equipped with a four-pitch mix of fastball, slider, change-up and cutter. Mason’s heat came as advertised, as 16 of his 22 first inning pitches were 94 mph fastballs below the waist.
Mason didn’t seem fazed in deep counts, either. His third strikeout was a 3-2 cutter slicing out of the zone, forcing a swing-and-miss from Jose Fernandez to end the second. His outing was over with after 59 pitches.
Neftali Feliz picked up his first win of the season, pitching three innings in relief with four strikeouts. Feliz, a nine-year veteran in the big leagues, appeared in back-to-back World Series with the Texas Rangers in 2010 and 2011.
Bees starter Ivan Pinyero pitched a solid five innings despite adding his sixth loss this season. The right-hander blanked Reno’s offense for three-straight innings with a steady fastball-change-up combo. Pinyero gave up three runs on eight hits and two walks with five strikeouts.
Brio added to his second All-Star appearance to his resume in typical Brito fashion, a solo blast with the wind carrying to deep right field. The Dominican Republic native also launched two homers in Wednesday’s 14-4 onslaught.
After a career-high seven RBIs Wednesday, Kevin Cron legged out a slow dribbler down the third base line in the fourth inning. Ildemaro Vargas knocked in his 36th RBI of the season.
Matt Thaiss’ first homer of the series knotted the game 1-1 in the fifth for Salt Lake. Reno answered the next half inning with two more. The bullpen took care of the rest from there on a quiet scoring night for both teams.
Notes: Reno is 6-3 all-time in games played on June 28. … The Aces are 20-4 when opponents are held to three runs or less. … The Aces are 16-22 against the Pacific Southern Division.
On Deck: The Aces (37-43) travel Friday to face the second place Tacoma Rainiers (41-38) , kicking-off a five-game series. Matt Koch will make his second start for the Aces. Koch has a 5-4 record in 12 games started for Arizona this year. Bryan Evans will get the nod for Tacoma. The Aces return home Wednesday, July 4. A fireworks show will take place after the game.
– Isaiah Burrows
Related story: Brito only Aces’ All-Star; here’s our PCL starting lineup.