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Bell on Senzel: 'I want him back healthy'

@m_sheldon
February 21, 2020

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Nick Senzel got through another offseason full of trade rumors, unscathed. Senzel, 24, is back preparing himself to be the Reds center fielder after a winter full of rehab from right shoulder surgery, and one in which his club made significant free-agent acquisitions to the outfield. “I

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Nick Senzel got through another offseason full of trade rumors, unscathed.

Senzel, 24, is back preparing himself to be the Reds center fielder after a winter full of rehab from right shoulder surgery, and one in which his club made significant free-agent acquisitions to the outfield.

“I pretty much voiced that I want to be here in Cincinnati,” Senzel said. “At the end of the day, I can’t really do much about it. I felt like ever since I got drafted, that my name has come up in the offseason. It’s been pretty much a constant thing, but this offseason felt a little more legitimate to get moved. I was definitely more aware it. They were bringing in a lot of guys and they need playing time for everybody. I can’t control that. I can only control my rehab process and doing what I have to do to get ready.”

When Cincinnati signed Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama to a three-year, $21 million contract in January, speculation immediately turned to whether Senzel would remain. Akiyama was a center fielder in Japan for the Seibu Lions and the Reds were still looking to trade for a shortstop, possibly Francisco Lindor from Cleveland or Corey Seager of the Dodgers.

Manager David Bell has maintained that Akiyama can play all three outfield spots and that Senzel will play quite a lot.

“The Reds have been really good in letting me know what the plan is and keeping me in the loop,” Senzel said. “When everything was going on and the trade rumors, my position and stuff, I never felt too worried about it because they kept me in the loop. I feel like they want me to be here. I want to be here as well. They’ve done a good job of defending me out in the public and wanting me to be here, which is really nice to see.

“I think all you ever really want is a voice when you don’t have one, especially when there are rumors going around.”

Senzel endured a mixed 2019 season as he batted .256/.315/.427 with 12 homers and 42 RBIs in 104 games -- often from the leadoff spot. He also battled injuries to his ankle, eye and a torn labrum in his shoulder that required surgery on Sept. 24.

There is hope, but not a guarantee, that Senzel can be ready for Opening Day. He has been taking batting practice without issue, but is on a modified throwing program that will keep him out of early Cactus League games.

“It’s definitely day-to-day evaluation and kind of one step at a time,” Bell said on Friday. “We can’t rush it. But we’re hopeful that he’ll be able to play games here.”

Bell declined to categorize Senzel as being behind schedule relative to the other outfielders.

“In some ways, I think he’s ahead,” Bell countered. “Depends on what you’re measuring that against. I don’t think it’s fair to even talk about a date when he’s going to be back. I mean the big thing is when he’s back healthy, I want him back healthy, you know? I don’t know when that’s going to be. I’m hopeful it’s early in the season, Opening Day. I just don’t know. I don’t even know if it’s fair … He’s working so hard to get himself back. To put a date on it, when you’re dealing with your body healing, I just don’t feel like it’s fair to talk about it.”

Senzel, a career infielder in the Minors and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 Draft, switched to center field shortly before camp opened in ’19. He mostly learned it on the job, as a rookie in the big leagues for the first time.

“It’s definitely going to be a little bit easier getting into the flow of things,” Senzel said of the upcoming season. “Last year, I didn’t have a whole hell of a lot of time to get ready to go.”

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.