In many ways, the 2020 season was a bit of a lost year for Reds center fielder Nick Senzel. That makes what he’s been up to this spring encouraging for the club.
Senzel slugged a one-out solo home run to right-center field off former Reds prospect Josiah Gray in the fifth inning of a 5-3 loss to the Dodgers on Tuesday night at Goodyear Ballpark. Through five Cactus League games, Senzel is batting .364 (4-for-11) with two homers and one double.
“I think it took him a game or two just to settle in, which is normal,” Reds manager David Bell said after the game. “I think he continues to have good at-bats, he's driving the ball. It's going to be fun to watch him really get into the flow of playing a lot. Really seeing the player that he is. Just the more he plays, the more he can get into that flow, the better for him.”
Last season, Senzel batted .186/.247/.357 with two homers and eight RBIs in 23 games. He missed 27 games on the injured list because of illness. Injuries caused him to miss significant time during his 2019 rookie year.
But Senzel, who was rehabbing from right shoulder surgery at this time last year, came to camp 100 percent healthy. The club has been pleased with his work this spring.
“He continues to play really an excellent center field,” Bell said. “Just the more innings, the more games he gets, the better [he is] out there. Not only is he a good athlete, he's running extremely well. The skills in the outfield are impressive to see how quickly he's picked that up.”
Sonny Gray was originally scheduled to start Tuesday’s game vs. the Dodgers but was scratched. Gray instead threw a side bullpen session so he could work on his pitches. His next outing has not been listed.
“He's healthy, he's ready to go the next time around,” Bell said. “We talked a little earlier about the individual plans for each of our pitchers and there was a few things that went into the decision. And we thought it was best for his long-term health, he wanted to work on a couple of things in the bullpen.”
Heineman ‘making a strong push’
Acquired in a trade from the Rangers in December, outfielder Scott Heineman is off to a hot start in Spring Training games. Heineman, who was 1-for-1 with a walk and run scored against the Dodgers on Tuesday, is batting .545 with a home run and a double in seven games as he competes for a reserve role.
Heineman, who hit a soft one-out single on the ground through the right side in the ninth inning, can play all three outfield spots and first base.
“He plays hard. He plays with a lot of positive emotion,” Bell said. “He’s not afraid to show what he can do and how excited he is to be on our team and to be playing. … He’s shown what he can do. He’s a strong guy, real athletic. Plays a good outfield. I think it helps him, too, that he can play first base. Probably going to see him over the next couple of days, maybe even start a game. I think that adds to what he can do. Yeah, he’s making a strong push, showing what he can do and potentially making our team.”
Santillan looks for bounce-back season
Reds pitching prospect Tony Santillan’s 2019 season at Double-A Chattanooga was a disappointment compared to his previous years in the system. He was 2-8 with a 4.84 ERA in 21 starts. Command was often an issue for Santillan, who walked 54 and struck out 92 over 102 1/3 innings.
Santillan, 23, was coming off a knee surgery the previous offseason and also dealt with a right shoulder impingement that landed him on the injured list three different times. All of that likely contributed to some of his on-field issues.
“You’ve just got to move on and learn from those,” Santillan said.
Of course, there was no 2020 Minor League season for Santillan to bounce back and he was instead stationed at the alternate site.
“It’s tough, but at the same time, it was a huge benefit for me having that year and a half of just straight developing,” said Santillan, who has allowed one unearned run through three innings and two games this spring. “Just finetuning some stuff and not having to worry about real, in-game live competition where everyone is watching. You’re doing your stuff on your own and know whether you’re getting better or not. For me, I just slowly saw the progression day by day through that year and a half, that the stuff I’m doing is actually working and making me feel better.”
While pitching a perfect fourth inning vs. the Dodgers on Tuesday, Santillan struck out two. His final pitch, a strike-three fastball to Omar Estévez, was a 97-mph fastball. When he returned for the top of the fifth, Santillan walked the bases loaded with one out but escaped when Gavin Lux grounded into an inning-ending double play.