Two key hitters in the Reds' lineup are banged up with injuries that knocked them out of Thursday’s 8-5 loss to the Cubs and kept them out of the lineup for Friday's series opener against the Cardinals.
Outfielder/designated hitter Jesse Winker is dealing with tightness in his lower back. Winker was lifted for pinch-hitter Curt Casali during the seventh inning on Thursday.
“Honestly, it was right before my third at-bat in which I walked [in the fifth],” Winker said. “I was on deck and it got tighter and tighter. I started walking to the plate and was kind of like, ‘Whoa.’ It’s really kind of how it went down right before the at-bat.”
Although Winker is in a season-high-tying 0-for-16 slump, he has been one of Cincinnati’s most productive hitters, batting .276 with a .969 OPS, 10 home runs and 19 RBIs.
Winker missed the final 36 games of last season with a cervical strain in his upper back and neck.
“I think what happened last year with my back was a fluky thing,” Winker said. “I will just get it taken care of and get back out on the field as soon as possible. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about or lose sleep over. Obviously, it’s a little uncomfortable right now, but it’s feeling better than it was [Thursday]. I’m happy with that.”
Moustakas was replaced at second base in the fifth inning on Thursday because of a left foot contusion. In the fourth, he was hit on the foot by a pitch from Cubs starter Adbert Alzolay.
“The good news was no fracture for Moose,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It kind of hit him in a bad spot. When it swells up inside your shoe, it’s very difficult to move around. Hopefully, we can get that swelling out and get him back soon.”
Moustakas is batting .233 with a .751 OPS, four homers and 14 RBIs.
Reliever Tyler Thornburg, who came down with a sore right elbow in the sixth inning on Thursday, was placed on the 10-day injured list Friday with a right elbow strain. Thornburg missed much of the 2014 season with an elbow injury.
Right-hander José De León was recalled from the taxi squad to replace Thornburg on the Reds' roster.
Corner infielder Matt Davidson, who was designated for assignment Tuesday, cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to the alternate training site.
Antone wants the pressure
Because lefty Wade Miley wasn’t ready to return from a left shoulder injury, the Reds have tapped rookie right-hander Tejay Antone to start against the Cardinals on Saturday.
Antone, who has a 2.49 ERA over eight games (three starts), firmly understood that Cincinnati is fighting for its dimming postseason life and was thrilled for the challenge.
“Oh yeah, this is what I live for. I love it,” Antone said. “I was thinking the other day, my first start was against [Cleveland and Mike] Clevinger, which was a really cool moment for me. One of the big-name guys in the game right now, and I was thinking, ‘What if I did someday get to start against Gerrit Cole or Yu Darvish or someone like that?’
"That’s what I’m here for. I love competition, and that’s what has gotten me to this point. I love having a little bit more extra stress on the game and making sure it means something and helping this team any way I can.”
On Aug. 22, Antone tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief at St. Louis. He has 33 strikeouts over 25 1/3 innings this season, averaging 11.73 strikeouts per nine innings.
Antone has been making adjustments to his two-seam fastball/sinker to try and get more swing-and-misses. According to Statcast, it averages 95.6 mph with a 2,619-rpm spin rate. Besides being a pitcher, he’s also learned about physics and how his stuff works.
“It’s got the spin. But I’ve been missing some spin efficiency,” Antone said. “It’s been in like a cutter orientation while it’s traveling straight. It’s angled like a cutter as it’s coming in, but it’s going straight, which due to Magnus force and some other things is actually giving it the sink action. It looks like a cutter, but it’s actually sinking. But it’s just not getting the true ride that I’m looking for, and true ride is what misses barrels.
“It’s hard during the season to make huge changes, especially when you’re having some success because you don’t want to change too much because you’re having success with it."
Bell does not expect center fielder Nick Senzel to be activated from the injured list for the weekend series in St. Louis. Senzel could be ready during the next four-game series at home against the Pirates that begins with a doubleheader on Monday.