CINCINNATI -- About 90 minutes before Friday’s game vs. the Cubs, the Reds scratched rookie second baseman Jonathan India from the lineup and placed him on the injured list without detailing the cause. Outfielder Mark Payton was recalled to replace India on the 26-man roster.
Cincinnati’s new lineup had Nick Senzel, the club’s regular center fielder, making his first big league start at second base. Tyler Naquin entered the lineup in center field for Senzel.
In 21 games this season, India has batted .239/.316/.358 with one home run and 14 RBIs. After he was hit on the head by a Jack Flaherty fastball in St. Louis on Sunday, he played on Monday at Los Angeles but was not used in the games on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Senzel, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 Draft, was an infielder in college and the Minor Leagues before being converted to center field. Manager David Bell has had him taking ground balls on the infield lately with the team down one bench player while carrying a ninth reliever in the bullpen.
On Sunday vs. the Cardinals, Senzel played an inning at second base and moved there from center field for another inning during his four-hit game on Wednesday vs. the Dodgers.
Barnhart and Stephenson forming a strong duo
Through one month of the 2021 season, the Reds catching tandem of veteran Tucker Barnhart and rookie Tyler Stephenson is off to a nice start. Offensively, Cincinnati’s catchers came into Friday leading the Major Leagues with a .337 average and were fourth with a .930 OPS.
Stephenson, who got some limited big league time in 2020 and was on the taxi squad for road trips, has shortened his learning curve immensely. Bell credits Barnhart’s selflessness as a big reason.
“I do think that our catching situation is really a good one,” Bell said. “We have a good group of coaches that work with these guys. Tucker has been phenomenal with Tyler, helped him develop. Very, very supportive. That’s not always the case. It shouldn’t surprise us about Tucker. I’ve seen situations where it’s not like that. Tucker has been an incredible teammate. That’s helped Tyler and it’s helped us be a better team. I think Tyler has benefitted from that.”
Stephenson, who has made nine starts in 2021, came in batting .359/.405/.487 with one home run and six RBIs in 39 at-bats. In terms of pitch framing, his strike rate improved from 35.4 percent last season to 48.1 percent this season.
FanGraphs ranks him at a not-so-flattering minus-3 defensive runs saved while Barnhart has one DRS.
However, Stephenson has quickly earned Bell’s trust as his development accelerates.
“When I came into the organization, I knew that he was the top prospect in how he was thought of,” Bell said. “But we also knew there was room for improvement with his catching and hitting, of course. The development that has taken place right before our eyes has been really incredible. It’s been fast. Defensively, he’s really settled in. He’s grown a lot in the way he does everything behind the plate. The way he calls games, the way he receives, blocking. He’s just improved in every area to the point of there’s no hesitation to have him catch in any situation with any of our pitchers.”
Castillo’s first-inning issues
When Luis Castillo makes his sixth start of the season on Saturday vs. the Cubs, a smooth first inning could be critical. In his previous five starts, Castillo has a 19.80 ERA with 14 hits allowed -- including three home runs -- during the opening frame.
“I can’t really pinpoint one specific [thing] that’s gone wrong, you know, something that’s mentally or anything like that,” Castillo said Friday via translator Jorge Merlos. “I think we’ve just had, or I’ve just had, very bad luck in that first inning. Because I don’t feel any different from the other innings, so I just think it’s a bad luck thing. I’m always out there trying to perform the best that I can, so I don’t think it’s any mental issue or anything like that.”
Reds add Adleman
The Reds signed pitcher Tim Adleman to a Minor League contract on Friday and assigned him to their alternate training site. Adleman pitched in 43 games (33 starts) for Cincinnati from 2016-17 and posted a 4.97 ERA.
Since leaving the Reds, Adleman pitched in Korea in 2018 and he returned to Cincinnati's Minor League camp in 2019 before being released. After a short stint in independent ball, the right-hander was in the Tigers organization for much of ’19.