Notes: Akiyama close; more 2nd for Senzel?

May 1st, 2021

CINCINNATI -- Injured Reds outfielder appears to be on the final stretch of his lengthy rehab from a left hamstring strain. Akiyama, who was scheduled to play five innings of a scrimmage on Saturday at the team’s Louisville, Ky., alternate training site, had two singles in four at-bats over seven innings during a Friday scrimmage at Columbus.

“Everything is going well,” Akiyama said via translator Luke Shinoda. “I’ve got no pain. I’ve been able to rack up the at-bats and also get the innings on defense as well. So far, so good.”

Akiyama noted he was able to sprint for an infield hit without issue and scoot back to first base on pick-off throws. He’s been in four games, but Saturday marked the first time he’s played in games on back-to-back days.

“I think in the process, the most important thing for me is to be able to have those contacts during the at-bats and also play in those games back-to-back with a little fatigue just like the regular season,” Akiyama said. “So far, I don’t have any of that yet.”

Akiyama, who strained his hamstring running out a ground ball on March 13 during Spring Training, could return sometime in the next week.

“I think that’s very realistic now. I thought it was and now I think it’s even more realistic,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Physically, I do think he’s ready. I think we’re just kind of finishing off what we tried to create for him as a Spring Training to try to get him as ready from a baseball standpoint, get his timing and all of that now. But physically, he’s checking all of the boxes. It’s a matter of days now. I do think when guys are ready to come back, sometimes if you take a few extra days, that turns out to be the best thing you can do, both for baseball and, really, even for health.”

More second base for Senzel?
A last-minute scratch and injured list move for Jonathan India meant got his first big league start at second base in Friday’s 8-6 win over the Cubs. Senzel, who moved back to his regular center field spot after five innings, got only one fielding chance at second base. He made a nice charging play on Anthony Rizzo’s chopped groundout in the third inning.

Bell did not rule out more chances at second base for Senzel this season.

“I think it could happen. I think [Friday] was a big step,” Bell said. “Nick has really kind of driven this a little bit. Him, [bench coach] Freddie [Benavides] and [first-base coach] Delino [DeShields] have spent time getting him reacclimated to different situations in the infield, taking a lot of ground balls. The fact that he’s warmed up to it and is really excited about it even, he came to me [Friday] kind of knowing the situation and he wanted to make sure I knew that he was ready to do it. That was important for me because I know he can do it.”

With Akiyama -- who also plays center field -- due back soon, having the option to put Senzel at second base down the road could free up Bell to maneuver his lineups. Other teams have key players play multiple positions -- including the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, an All-Star who plays third base and left field.

“It’s not seen as a negative where if guys are moving around, that doesn’t mean they’re not a starter or even a star player,” Bell said. “I think it just adds to a player’s value for what they can do to a team.”

Winker not worried about his back
After he exited Friday’s game in the seventh inning with a tight back, left fielder was out of Saturday’s lineup.

“I’m feeling better today,” Winker said. “I just feel like it was precautionary. Kind of spasmed up on me. Got some treatment immediately, started feeling better as the night progressed, woke up feeling better, and then hopefully just be able to get back in there [Sunday], get back out there in left field and continue playing. It’s definitely not anything to worry about.”

Antone racking up firsts
In back-to-back relief appearances this week for the Reds, has notched his first big-league win, followed by his first save. Antone pitched three scoreless innings vs. the Dodgers for the victory on Monday. After Lucas Sims walked three batters in the ninth inning Friday, Antone was summoned to record the final out.

Antone threw three pitches and retired David Bote with a groundout to end the game.

“Just right spot, right time situations it seemed like. I’m just happy with the opportunities and I’m glad I capitalized on them,” Antone said on Saturday.

As successful as he’s been in a short time in the Major Leagues, it seemed surprising that the two firsts only just now happened.

“I was giving Ryan Hendrix some crap, ‘Sick, you’ve spent four days in the big leagues and you’ve got a win. I had to spend 80 games or whatever,’” Antone said. “I think it all comes in time. The accolades are cool, and the stats are cool, but I’m just trying to help the team win ballgames.”