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Winker earning playing time with increased pop

Bailey on right track with improved velocity in latest rehab start
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- In late May, Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman had decided it was a good time to stop the four-man outfield rotation and let Jesse Winker sit more often. It was partially done for defensive reasons since Winker wasn't as proficient in the field, but it was also done with a goal to get Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler going offensively.

Riggleman wound up going back to a rotation a short time later and Winker has rewarded the decision at the plate. In 23 games in June entering Friday night's game against the Brewers, Winker was batting .324/.448/.549 while hitting five of the six home runs he's hit for the season. He showed off some of that power on an opposite-field go-ahead homer in Thursday's loss to Milwaukee.

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CINCINNATI -- In late May, Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman had decided it was a good time to stop the four-man outfield rotation and let Jesse Winker sit more often. It was partially done for defensive reasons since Winker wasn't as proficient in the field, but it was also done with a goal to get Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler going offensively.

Riggleman wound up going back to a rotation a short time later and Winker has rewarded the decision at the plate. In 23 games in June entering Friday night's game against the Brewers, Winker was batting .324/.448/.549 while hitting five of the six home runs he's hit for the season. He showed off some of that power on an opposite-field go-ahead homer in Thursday's loss to Milwaukee.

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"[Winker] wasn't ever going to sit for a long time," Riggleman said. "After I looked at it closer, it was at that point where we were getting all of those off-days, and if I was going to sit him for two or three [games] even, which I did three, even then we had so many off-days. It was like he was going to be starting all over again. We abandoned that pretty quickly."

Winker, playing in his first full Major League season, didn't take anything negative from the temporary change in plans.

"From Day 1, since I was drafted, you have to prove it. And until the day you're done, you have to prove why you belong," said Winker, who entered batting .270/.385/.396 in 71 games overall. "The proving process doesn't ever end. I took it in stride. I was told the rotation was ending, but when my name was called, I just wanted to be ready."

Winker, 24, hit seven homers in 47 games last season as a rookie. Throughout his rise through the organization, he's never been known for having a lot of power. According to Statcast™, he's been lifting the ball more in 2018, with a 13.9-degree launch angle average compared to 7.6 in '17.

Throughout his pro career, Winker has always been selective at the plate, and it's been no different in the Majors. He has a nearly 1-to-1 ratio of walks and strikeouts -- 40 walks compared to 38 strikeouts. But when he swings at strikes, he isn't doing anything different mechanically this year.

"Me and Don [Long, the hitting coach] have been working on some things. I don't necessarily try to lift the ball," Winker said. "I try to hit the ball hard where it's pitched. When I'm up with runners in scoring position and less than two outs, obviously, I'm trying to hit the ball in the air hard. But I'm not changing anything to do that. It's more of a mindset and pitch selection thing for me. I key on that and stay on top of it, and hit good pitches."

Bailey report positive

In his third rehab assignment start for Triple-A Louisville on Thursday, Homer Bailey allowed three earned runs on six hits and no walks, with three strikeouts over 100 pitches (69 strikes) in seven innings. All three runs came via solo home runs.

Bailey had been hit hard in his previous two outings, and his rehab assignment was temporarily stopped after the first game because of a return of his right knee soreness. In his previous start, he allowed seven earned runs and 10 hits over six innings.

"Much better," Riggleman said. "Talking to [Louisville pitching coach] Jeff Fassero, he said it was moving in the right direction. I guess we will probably leave it at that. He is going to start again in five days and hopefully it continues to move in that direction. They say the velocity was good. The velocity got better as he got deeper into the game, as opposed to losing velocity.

"Better fastball command. Not what he wants it to be, but better than what it has been. All the signs were positive."

Riggleman not into benches clearing

When Reds first baseman Joey Votto and Brewers catcher Erik Kratz exchanged some heated words at home plate in the third inning of Thursday's 6-4 loss, the benches cleared in a sort of half-hearted fashion. Before the bullpens had both spilled out, players were milling around, and some even jovially put their arms around each other.

Video: MIL@CIN: Tempers flare between Votto, Kratz at home

Riggleman wouldn't mind seeing rule changes to prevent bench-clearing incidents of any type.

"That one was going to be pretty minor. Very few of them turn into much more than that," he said. "I wish there was no such thing as benches emptying. I wish we had the hockey rule. With four umpires, they can stop anything that is going to happen between two guys. Once it gets to be a bunch of guys out there, if there really is some animosity between clubs, there is really no way the umpires could stop it."

Both the NHL and NBA have rules that mandate suspensions for players who leave the benches during skirmishes on the ice or court.

"I really would like to see it, because we would just know you have to sit there and watch them," Riggleman said. "If two guys really want to fight, not much is going to happen, because four umpires should be able to get in there pretty quick."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Jesse Winker