Lutz Takes Unusual Path To Join Reds
GOODYEAR, Ariz—Donald Lutz's story is unique among the 58 players in the Reds' major league spring training camp.
The Reds found Lutz, a German citizen, in Italy. The lefthanded-hitting outfielder didn't even start playing baseball until he was 15. He was born in the Watertown, N.Y., but his family moved to Regensburg, Germany, when he was an infant. His father was in the Army, while his mother is German.
"I played hockey when I was younger," he said. "But my older brother started playing baseball. He said I should try it. I did and really liked it."
Both Lutz and brother Sascha are members of the German national team. The Reds signed Donald after seeing him in a showcase organized by Major League Baseball in Italy.
"Obviously, we don't sign a lot of guys from (Europe)," said Bill Bavasi, vice president of scouting, player development and international operations. "Jim Stoeckel (director of global operations) is our expert on that market. It's getting better."
Lutz, now 23, struggled a bit his first two years in the system. He hit a combined .226 with two home runs in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2008-09. He showed signs of coming around in 2010 at Rookie-level Billings. He hit .286/.356/.478 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs in 55 games.
Then he broke out last year, batting .301/.358/.492 with 20 home runs for low Class A Dayton. He hit .340 over the second half with 51 RBIs in 63 games, then was added to 40-man roster in November.
"I'm really excited," Lutz said. "I'm the first German on the 40-man roster."
Lutz has heard about the great German heritage in Cincinnati.
"I'd fit right in," he said.
And now he has a legitimate chance of playing there.
"He's really good," Bavasi said. "He's a guy to watch. I don't think he's going to sneak up on anybody."
• Righthander Brett Tomko signed a minor league deal with the Reds on the day spring training opened. Tomko has agreed to go to Triple-A if he doesn't make the big league team out of spring training.
• The Reds are holding a special strength and conditioning camp for 20 top minor leaguers.