CINCINNATI -- Two games for Triple-A Louisville and five hitless at-bats was all Jesse Winker had on his rehab assignment, but the Reds' left fielder had had enough with waiting to return.
Winker was activated from the 10-day injured list on Friday after being out since Aug. 16 with an intercostal strain.
“I don’t think, realistically, feeling 100 percent was on the table,” Winker said. “I just wanted to get it good enough to just be able to come back and help. That’s all I wanted to do.”
Winker was in Memphis on Thursday afternoon as the Reds notched a 1-0 win over the Pirates. Cincinnati went 12-16 in his absence, lost seven consecutive series and fell behind both the Cardinals and Padres for the second National League Wild Card spot.
Watching the win from afar was when Winker decided to head back and rejoin the Reds. Instead of flying back and connecting in Atlanta, he realized he could get to Cincinnati faster by driving. Minor League hitting coordinator C.J. Gillman drove Winker back to Cincinnati.
“I don’t know how many more AB’s in Memphis. The amount I needed, I felt, wasn’t realistic,” Winker said. “I just said, ‘Screw it, I’m going to go play baseball.’ You only get to be part of a playoff chase so many times. You don’t know the next time you’re going to be one game back for the Wild Card. I just felt like I want to play, and that’s it.”
Tyler Naquin was placed on the 10-day IL -- retroactive to Tuesday -- with bruised ribs that will likely keep him out for the rest of the regular season.
Winker, 28, entered Friday batting .307 with a .955 OPS and 24 home runs. Manager David Bell started him in center field vs. the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler because Shogo Akiyama was scratched with a tight hamstring. Already without Naquin, Bell also wanted the lefty bat of Max Schrock in the lineup against the right-handed Buehler.
“I know you can never really be fully prepared for a Major League game until you go out and do it, even for a veteran player like Jesse, who has had a lot of success,” Bell said. “Two games is nowhere near what you get in Spring Training, but the good thing is he does have a season, so he’s not starting from scratch. It just shows Jesse’s desire to be back with our team as quick as he possibly can. He knows his importance.
“All he can do is be himself and not try to do too much. He knows that. He’s been around long enough now and has enough confidence in himself to trust that and do just that.”