Notes: Senzel, Castillo reports, GABP fans

February 25th, 2021

The Reds have a crowded outfield situation. One contender, center fielder , is a former infielder. But manager David Bell isn’t planning on moving Senzel to the infield right now.

Senzel, 25, was drafted as a third baseman and played second, third and short at Triple-A Louisville. He switched to center field for the 2019 season when there was a vacancy.

“The way Nick Senzel looks in the outfield, if we ever did consider moving him into the infield, we’d be losing a lot in the outfield,” Bell said on Thursday from Goodyear, Ariz. “He’s really turned himself into a very skilled outfielder to go along with really elite speed and athleticism. There’s a lot to consider.”

Senzel, selected by Cincinnati as the No. 2 overall selection in the 2016 Draft, has missed significant time with injuries or ailments over the past two seasons. He was limited to 104 Major League games in 2019 but batted .256/.315/.427 with 12 home runs.

In 2020, Senzel missed 27 games while on the injured list and batted .186/.247/.357 with two homers in 23 games. Bell believes that he can still be an everyday type of player.

“You look at who Nick Senzel is, and we know the talent, we know the ability,” Bell said. “I'm excited, we're all excited to see Nick consistently play over the course of a long season -- stay healthy, get some breaks to be able to stay on the field for a whole year -- because he hasn't been able to experience or enjoy playing that way, not concerned with health or all that. It'll be fun to see. Nick, we believe, is an everyday player in this league for sure. Right now, he's our center fielder.”

Bell will still have to find ways to get playing time for four outfielders -- Senzel, Shogo Akiyama, Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos.

“Every day doesn't necessarily mean every single day. There's off-days mixed in, there's things that come up, there's matchups to consider. So, at one point, every day might have meant 162 games, but that's not really what I mean when I say ‘everyday,’” Bell clarified.

Castillo in camp
A late arrival because of travel issues out of the Dominican Republic and pandemic quarantine requirements, pitcher passed his physical and was officially in camp Thursday.

“It was a really good winter because I was able to spend time with my family, so that was really good. I was working just on my pitching so I can have a better 2021 season with the organization,” Castillo said via translator Jorge Merlos. “What I learned last year, it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. Really, it’s all that hard work pays off at the end of the season for you.”

Castillo, 28, was 4-6 with a 3.21 ERA over 12 starts last season. But he really didn’t have everything put together until September, when he was 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA in five starts. He allowed 22 hits and nine walks while striking out 37 over his final 32 2/3 innings. In his first four starts of the final month, he was 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA.

“You bring all that mental and physical focus that you brought from last year to this year,” Castillo said. “With that in mind, you would try to work even harder this year to stay in that moment. Obviously, we had some low points last year, but we bring that into this year and then we’re just going to be better.”

Bell has not determined who will start on Opening Day, April 1, vs. the Cardinals. It’s likely between Castillo and Sonny Gray, who started the 2019 and '20 season openers, respectively. St. Louis named Jack Flaherty as its starter on Wednesday.

“But we're going to be a little delayed,” Bell said. “Luis was a couple of days late. He's certainly going to be a consideration for that spot. Sonny's going to be a consideration for that spot. Like I said last year, we understand and honor the importance of Opening Day, especially in Cincinnati. Every single game is so important, in the big picture it may not be as important as getting things lined up properly for our pitchers' health and where they are in their readiness.”

Fans to be allowed at GABP
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday that the Reds would be able to host fans at Great American Ball Park in 2021 at up to 30 percent capacity. Masks and social distancing will be required, and the Reds will utilize pod-style seating for up to six people in one group.

All tickets will be issued digitally via the MLB Ballpark app to allow for contactless entry. Only contactless and cashless forms of payment will be accepted at concessions and merchandise stands.

“I actually had a dream last night that I was at Great American Ball Park, and there were fans in the stands,” Bell said. “It wasn't fully packed, but it felt like it was. The presence of human energy and that relationship that exists between the players and the fans. Somehow, we were able to get to the point last year where we were able to just grow accustomed to it really fast. But I think we're going to be blown away when we're reminded how important that is and how nice it is.”

A date for single-game tickets sales has yet to be announced by the club.