CINCINNATI -- The Reds’ offense received a boost Wednesday, when second baseman Mike Moustakas and center fielder Nick Senzel returned to the lineup vs. the Cubs.
And they immediately made their presence felt in Cincinnati's 12-7 victory.
Moustakas gave the Reds a 2-0 lead with a two-run home run off Kyle Hendricks in the fourth inning, and after Nick Castellanos clubbed a grand slam in the fifth off reliever Rex Brothers, Senzel added a solo homer to cap the seven-run rally and give Cincinnati a 9-0 lead. Senzel added an RBI double in the seventh.
Moustakas was activated from the injured list. To clear a roster spot for him, rookie catcher Tyler Stephenson was optioned to the team’s alternate training site at Prasco Park.
“Not putting Nick aside, but especially Mike -- he was a big, big sign for us this offseason,” Reds catcher Curt Casali said. “He’s a difference maker in our clubhouse. He’s an energy giver. When he’s around, people feel better. He was missed in the dugout. He will be greatly welcomed back, as well as Nick. He offers a steady presence in center field. He’s a freak athlete. He’s a great player. We need those two guys in our lineup every day if we expect to compete. We didn’t do a great job of holding down the fort while they were gone.”
Senzel, who was scratched from the lineup on Sunday vs. the Tigers and missed two more games on Monday and Tuesday after he reported not feeling well, revealed his good news with a few words on Twitter.
“Back. #weirdtimes,” Senzel wrote on Wednesday afternoon.
Moustakas also said he didn’t feel well and was scratched the same day as Senzel -- one day after infielder Matt Davidson went on the IL because he tested positive for COVID-19. Unlike Senzel, Moustakas was placed on the IL.
Both players were cleared to return after multiple negative test results.
“Definitely interesting,” Moustakas said after the game. “Just sitting at home, taking tests, just waiting to see what was going to happen. In constant contact with our trainers here, guys on the other team, guys on our team, obviously, have been texting the boys and everyone's been checking up and seeing how I'm doing and all that good stuff, but it was definitely weird.
"You know when you're not feeling great, you still show up to the field and play baseball, you get through it that way. Now in this time period we're in, we just can't do that anymore. We have to be cautious. We have to be overly cautious, if anything, and that's kind of how it started.”
Senzel and Moustakas stayed away from the ballpark but kept in touch with each other and the team.
“Obviously, we both weren’t feeling well, and with the situation going on, you can’t put anyone else at risk,” Senzel said. “We were checking in, checking in with our team, the guys, watching the games and doing our best to stay in it. We’re just happy to be back.”
Manager David Bell was thrilled to have his players back after a 1-4 start to the season.
“Our first concern was when we found out they weren't feeling well, but then as the days went on, that concern went away as the time passed,” Bell said. “The next part of it is how important they are to our team on and off the field and wanting to get them back as quickly as we can. That has been challenging, and now we move forward.”
Bell was not concerned that players might not self-report feeling ill or the possibility of having coronavirus symptoms. But he made it clear that not reporting illness was dangerous.
“We can't do that,” Bell said. “Our health is too important, our well-being. We have to continue to trust that [process]. We'll make sure our guys know that that can't happen. It's not fair to them or teammates or our team or anyone involved in this.”
Moustakas wore a mask on the field, except when he was hitting. Senzel used a gaiter and took it off his face while in the field. Both understood the need to adhere to all protocols in light of issues
“Honestly, I thought it was handled probably the best that it could be with how the Marlins situation was going and the Phillies, Baltimore, New York and everything going on there,” Senzel said. “I thought it was handled pretty good.”
Barnhart’s return means rest for Casali
Following his return from paternity leave on Tuesday, catcher Tucker Barnhart was in the Reds’ lineup for the first time this season on Wednesday. Casali had started all five previous games and caught all but three innings with Stephenson making his debut behind the plate on Monday.
Barnhart went 1-for-3 in his return, including a bases-loaded walk.
“I think my body feels as good as I would expect it to feel,” Casali said. “Five in a row is the most I’ve ever caught, Minor Leagues or Major Leagues. Kind of cool to think about. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m really excited to see Tucker back. I even missed him being in our little catcher’s corner over there, just talking and doing scouting reports and joking around.”
Casali took some lumps while catching. He was hit in -- ahem -- a sensitive area by a Sonny Gray curveball in the dirt and needed a moment. Also, Detroit’s Cameron Maybin inadvertently hit him with his bat as he threw it in frustration.
“I’ve never been hit with a bat like that. Actually, it hit me three times,” Casali said. “Once kind of in the Adam’s apple, twice in the back of the neck and three on the side of the head. It was a three-fer. A complete accident on his part. He didn’t mean to do it. … As soon as he was out, he came back and checked on me. I mean, he’s notoriously one of the nicest people in the league, so we’re cool. I would very much like for it to not happen again, though.”
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.