GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Despite a strong Spring Training as a first-time center fielder, the Reds included top prospect Nick Senzel among the latest round of roster cuts on Friday.
Scott Schebler will begin the season as the Reds’ starting center fielder. Senzel will continue to play center field at Triple-A Louisville.
“He did everything he possibly could,” Reds manager David Bell said. “In the end, we had to remember that this guy has never played a regular season game in the outfield. The good news is when he does come up, he’s going to be that much more prepared to do it and he’s close. He’s shown he can do it. In the big picture, he’s going to be that much more ready, and it’s going to serve him well getting some playing time in real games.”
Ranked as baseball's No. 6 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Senzel came to camp competing to replace Billy Hamilton as the starting center fielder despite being a career infielder at second base and third base in the Minor Leagues and college. It was his clearest path to the big leagues since Cincinnati already has Eugenio Suarez at third base and Scooter Gennett at second base.
Senzel, 23, batted .308/.300/.462 in 12 Cactus League games with six doubles among his 12 hits. He also looked good defensively and made most of the plays on balls that were hit his way. Bell liked how Senzel took the news.
“I would never say he liked it and I wouldn’t say he agreed with it, but he handled it perfect,” Bell said. “When he walked out, I couldn’t have felt better about the idea that he’s going to go and prepare himself and be ready when his time comes.”
Schebler has also been strong in camp and entered the day batting .379/.548/.690 with two home runs, five RBIs and 11 walks. When asked, Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams said the move was a baseball decision. By delaying Senzel’s promotion by at least a couple of weeks, the club gets an extra year before he can become a free agent.
“This was the hardest cut we’ve had that I can remember,” Williams said. “With Nick in particular, it is a recognition of the fact that he exceeded expectations this spring. With some more game experience out there -- I think he’s literally been in 12 games as a center fielder -- a handful of innings at night and really only a couple of nine-inning games. With some experience, he has shown us that he’s going to do it out there. I think that surprised a lot of people. We owe it to him to give him the opportunity to get prepared for when he comes here.”
Also reassigned to Minor League camp were left-handed relievers Cody Reed and Ian Krol, right-handed relievers Sal Romano and Lucas Sims, outfielder Phillip Ervin, catcher Juan Graterol, infielder/catcher Kyle Farmer and infielder Blake Trahan. Ervin in particular had an excellent camp, batting .341 with five homers.
“We have four outfielders who are going to play a lot,” Bell said. “That's certainly a manageable number of guys who are all going to contribute.”
Bell said that Tyler Mahle would replace Wood and pitch in the rotation’s fifth spot, and in the fifth game of the season on April 2 vs. the Brewers. The team considered going with four starters and using scheduled off days to have an extra spot open but it was decided to go with Mahle.
“No. 1, the way he’s pitching and how we feel about Tyler and our confidence in putting him in that situation,” Bell said. “It was a possibility with the off days. In the end, we see the benefit in keeping with the normal five-man rotation and aligning for the extra rest. Especially early in the year, it seems like you don’t need it then, but I think we’ll look back and be glad we took advantage of that. There’s plenty of long stretches without off days.”
That leaves five pitchers for the final two bullpen spots – Wandy Peralta, Matt Wisler, Matt Bowman, Anthony Bass and Robert Stephenson. Of that group, Wisler and Stephenson are out of options while Bass is a non-roster player.
There likely will be a four-man bench with whoever doesn’t start in left field between Winker or Kemp, catcher Curt Casali and utility players Derek Dietrich and Jose Iglesias. Dietrich and Iglesias would have to be added to the 40-man roster once they officially make the team since they are non-roster players.