Senzel 'right on track' for spring, Year 2 in CF

December 7th, 2019

CINCINNATI -- Reds center fielder Nick Senzel recently heard what he hoped to hear from team medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek. Senzel is making good progress in his rehabilitation from right shoulder surgery and is on track to be ready in time for Spring Training.

“Progressing right on track,” Senzel said Friday during the first day of Redsfest. “Second week of January I'm going to begin hitting and throwing. I have full range of motion, strength is coming back good, I've been in the weight room, sprinting, just getting in shape.

“It's something I pondered not doing, not getting the surgery, but when I think back, I'm glad I did because it was just going to get worse. I'm excited about it. Just excited to get back in the swing of things. I'm already in Arizona, so just enjoying some warm weather and rehab.”

Senzel had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder in September, but his offseason timeline for getting into baseball activity wasn’t knocked too far off course.

“Maybe this offseason I would have [started] a little bit before, just because there a couple of things I would like to focus on,” Senzel said. “It’s pretty much around the time I start getting going. It works out.”

Senzel, 24, was ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Reds’ No. 1 prospect when he made his Major League debut on May 3. Amid on-the-job training as a first-time center fielder, he batted .256/.315/.427 with 12 homers and 42 RBIs in 104 games -- often from the leadoff spot.

There was a possibility entering the offseason that Senzel could return to his natural infield position and take over the vacancy at second base. That chance was eliminated when the Reds signed free agent Mike Moustakas to a four-year, $64 million contract.

Senzel is expecting to be the regular center fielder once again.

“I don't know it officially yet, but I'm pretty sure that's what I will be doing,” he said. “At the end of the year they told me that I'll be playing center field unless something happens. I'm pretty excited about knowing actually where I'm going to play, going into Spring Training.”

Senzel was considered a decent defender for a first-timer in the outfield, and he has a chance to build on that with added experience.

“Looking back, I didn't get a lot of time to work out there, I just tried as best I could to get acclimated,” Senzel said. “I had a little hiccup [ankle] injury before the season started, and things happen and I was -- after seven games in Triple-A, I was out there. It happened so quick. I thought for the most part I did a pretty good job out there. Obviously, there's room to get better, no doubt about it. But I'm excited to know I've logged a lot of games there in one season and I'll be logging a lot of innings this year.”

Offensively, Senzel plans to return to his old approach. Under former hitting coach Turner Ward and former assistant hitting coach Donnie Ecker, he was encouraged to change his stance in the second half of last season.

Ward and Ecker had Senzel switch to a more open batting stance that also had him standing taller. He added a leg kick as he started to swing. It was supposed to help him see the ball better, but instead he mostly struggled at the plate.

Senzel was batting a season-high .285 on Aug. 2. His numbers took a nosedive after the adjustment as he batted .188/.242/.313 over his final 34 games until the shoulder injury wiped out most of the final month of the season.

“I'm going back to what I do,” Senzel said. “I knew going into that that there was going to be failures. It wasn't just I was going to change something at the big league level and that my numbers were going to stay the same. It's obviously frustrating when you're going through it. I was just trying something out and it didn't work, so I'll go back to what I've been doing since I was 5 years old. I don't really have any regrets, it is what it is, and we move on.”

Senzel will have a new hitting coach for 2020 after Alan Zinter was hired to replace Ward, who was let go in October. A new assistant hitting coach has yet to be named after word leaked that Ecker would become the Giants' new hitting coach.

As the Reds strive to become contenders in the next season, Senzel understands that he will have to improve as a player in his second year as a big leaguer.

“I don't really know anything about expectations, I just go out there and enjoy it,” Senzel said. “I feel the more I enjoy it, the less I worry about expectations or pressure the better. I'll go out, enjoy it, have fun and win games.”