CINCINNATI -- Injured Reds outfielder Shogo Akiyama has progressed with his left hamstring strain and is being assigned to the alternate training site in Louisville to continue his rehabilitation.
“I’ve been walking. I’ve been also running and utilizing the machines as well. I’ve been using my legs and also applying pressure in different places,” Akiyama said Saturday via translator Luke Shinoda. “I’ve been able to hit off the tee and also do some front toss as well. I just want to add the amount of [balls hit] and see how it goes from here.”
Akiyama was injured while running to first base during a March 13 Cactus League game and he opened the regular season on the 10-day injured list.
The Reds have not set a target return date for Akiyama, but it’s possible that he could return sometime this month.
“I think it’s too early. I haven’t started asking yet about dates, just because I don’t want to pressure anyone,” Reds manager David Bell said. “I know he’s going to get back as quick as humanly possible. I think we’re probably getting pretty close to that, though, where we could start targeting a date. But yeah, he’s progressing extremely well. He’s healing well. He’s getting his strength back. I don’t think it could have gone any better up to this point.”
Signed to a three-year, $21 million contract in 2020 to become Cincinnati’s first Japanese Major League player, Akiyama had a professional streak of 833 consecutive games played -- including his final 825 in Japan for Seibu. The streak ended on Aug. 2, 2020, at Detroit, when he was rested during the second game of a doubleheader.
Akiyama, 32, dealt with the disappointment of not getting to play in Thursday’s opener vs. the Cardinals.
“I knew as I got injured, I wasn’t going to be ready on Opening Day,” Akiyama said. “I wanted to make it in that Opening Day lineup, but with the long season, I know the first priority is to not leave the team again. Just be prepared when I come back and stay on the team for the rest of the season.”
Senzel not seriously injured
Cincinnati’s outfield depth was tested further in Thursday’s 11-6 loss to St. Louis when center fielder Nick Senzel exited with a left shoulder injury. An MRI taken on the shoulder revealed no serious damage.
“He’s going to be fine,” Bell said. “We’re hoping to have him in some capacity tonight and hope to have him back in the lineup in a matter of a day or two.”
Senzel was injured while making a nice diving catch in the top of the fourth inning. He was replaced by Tyler Naquin, who was later replaced by Aristides Aquino. Naquin, a lefty hitter, started in center field Saturday against Cardinals right-handed pitcher Adam Wainwright.
“It’s an opportunity to get Tyler into the lineup, get him into it,” Bell said. “He had a great spring, so we’re looking forward to having him in the lineup and seeing him play. He has all the experience. He’s done it and he moves really well in the outfield, moves well on the bases. He’s a threat at the plate. We’re in good shape until we get Nick back.”
Castellanos ditches his smartphone
Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos, who enjoyed a torrid spring of hitting, was 3-for-5 on Thursday with his first home run of 2021. Asked if he made any changes to his approach, Castellanos provided an unexpected answer.
“I mean, I feel pretty locked in. As far as things to help me get there, nothing dramatic jumps out. I got rid of my phone. Other than that, that’s about it,” Castellanos said. “Yeah. It was just toxic, so I got rid of it.”
Castellanos hasn’t dropped completely off the grid, however.
“I got a little burner flip phone that if someone needs to call me, they can reach out,” he said.
Gray on track
Reds pitcher Sonny Gray, who is on the 10-day IL because of mid-back spasms, had no issues following his three-inning start in an intrasquad game Wednesday. The club continues to hope that Gray could be ready by the middle of April.
“He’s doing well,” Bell said. “All indications are is he’s on track. It’s just a matter of time. We don’t have a date set. His next step will be in Louisville at the alternate site. It’s one more step towards getting back here; increase the workload, increase the amount of pitches he throws and go from there.”
The Reds claimed catcher Beau Taylor off of waivers from Cleveland and optioned him to their alternate training site. Catcher Deivy Grullón was designated for assignment and right-handed pitcher Edgar García cleared waivers and was sent to the alternate site.