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Winker unfazed by crowded Reds outfield

February 19, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Since Jesse Winker suffered a season-ending shoulder injury on July 23, he's gained a lot of company in the Reds' corner-outfield spots.One December trade with the Dodgers brought Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, Scott Schebler is back and top prospectNick Senzel is competing for a spot in

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Since Jesse Winker suffered a season-ending shoulder injury on July 23, he's gained a lot of company in the Reds' corner-outfield spots.
One December trade with the Dodgers brought Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, Scott Schebler is back and top prospectNick Senzel is competing for a spot in center field, which could affect the corners because Puig and Schebler can also play center.
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When asked whether the changes will affect him, Winker gave a blank stare back and answered succinctly.
"It won't," Winker replied politely.
Why not?
"I'm just going to play baseball. It will have no effect on me," he said. "To be honest with you, we're trying to do a lot of great things here as a team. We need great players to do that. The guys we've added, all around, are just solid players. They're going to help us here and it's going to be great to play alongside them. I'm looking forward to it."
One of the best younger hitters the Reds have, Winker batted .299/.405/.431 with seven home runs and 43 RBIs in 89 games last season. It abruptly ended when he fell down avoiding a line drive running the bases. Winker was diagnosed with a subluxation -- or partial dislocation -- in his non-throwing right shoulder.
It was a shame because Winker had started to become an early Rookie of the Year contender. From June 1-July 23, he hit .362 with six homers. Reds manager David Bell doesn't seem keen on further stunting Winker's growth as a big league hitter by having him platoon or play part-time.
"He does need to continue to develop, but we want him to contribute at that level and as an everyday player," Bell said. "Again, it's challenging having a lot of guys that can contribute, but I'm confident that it will work out. I really am. He's going to be a big part of what we're doing."

It helps that Winker, 25, is healthy with no lingering issues with his shoulder after a successful rehabilitation. He spent the entire offseason at the Reds' Spring Training complex preparing for this season.
"It was a really smooth process with everything. Everyone involved with the staff here and the strength staff did an awesome job," Winker said. "When it comes to limitations, I have none. I'm full-go and participating 100 percent."
That leaves the remaining question of where Winker might hit in the order. Bell hasn't revealed his thoughts on the topic, but he has some appealing options.
Former Reds manager Bryan Price and former interim manager Jim Riggleman tried Winker in the leadoff spot last season and got productive results. He batted .265/.373/.346 in 35 starts at the top of the order.
Winker's early summer tear came when he batted further down the lineup. In the fifth spot, he batted .536/.581/.750 in eight games and .308/.443/.500 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 26 games while in the sixth spot.
"I don't care where I hit, but I would love to lead off and bat first for this team," Winker said. "If I am hitting fifth or sixth, I will be the best fifth or sixth hitter I can be.
"Last year was my first time leading off, and there is just something about starting off the game that I really, really loved and enjoyed doing. If it's something I am called to do, then I'm going to be the best leadoff hitter I can be. I like to provide flexibility for the manager any way I can."

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.