WASHINGTON — Cincinnati Reds rookie Elly De La Cruz turned to the home plate umpire as the ball soared into the night sky. He had something to say.
De La Cruz homered 455 feet in Washington on Wednesday night, then pointed a plastic catcher covering the tip of his bat, a reference to umpires forcing him to pull it out earlier in the game.
“Just to tell everyone the button is not the reason I’m doing a good job,” De La Cruz said of the gesture’s meaning. “It’s because of all the work I do there.”
De La Cruz then added two doubles and a run after the home run as the Reds won the game 9-2 to make it three in a row against the Nationals.
De La Cruz, one of the majors’ top rookies and a key driver in Cincinnati’s rise to the top of its division, had an empty catcher cover on the pommel of his bat. But he was pulled after Nationals manager Dave Martinez questioned his use before De La Cruz struck in the second.
The umpires reviewed the legality of the button cover with the league office and informed De La Cruz that he was allowed to put it back on his bat for his second at bat in the third.
“It’s something we use in spring training,” De La Cruz said through an interpreter. “It’s just a sensor that we use, but it’s just the plastic that covers the bat. There’s nothing else other than that. I started using it in 2021. C I was just more comfortable using it, and from there I asked for more of those plastic shells.”
After the game, team manager Adrian Johnson said Martinez reported the button cover to the referees. Johnson said he checked with the league office, but it took some time to get a response.
“We had to keep playing, to keep the game going,” he said. “They finally got back to us before his next at bat and said the attachment was approved. So he played the rest of the game with the attachment at bat.”
After flying left in the third, De La Cruz opened up the fifth with a deep drive to the center right against Josiah Gray. He then pointed the tip of his bat before rounding the bases.
Martinez slammed De La Cruz’s move.
“I’m not trying to penalize this kid. I’m not. I like the way he plays the game,” Martinez said. “I didn’t like his antics after he hit the home run. We can get away with it. He’s only got two weeks in the majors, but he’s going to be a good player.”
It was De La Cruz’s fourth homer since making his league debut on June 6. He’s batting .318 (35 for 110) with 14 RBIs and 11 steals in 26 games.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.