The Reds’ outfield is crowded. It’s about to get more crowded with Nick Senzel slated to make his first Cactus League appearance later this week.
Okay, Senzel won’t actually play the outfield, as he’s slated to serve as the team’s designated hitter versus the Brewers on Thursday. Still, it’s obviously a big step for the former top prospect as he works his way back from last September’s labrum surgery on his right shoulder.
The 24-year-old said Monday that hitting is no big deal for him at this point, as he’s been taking batting practice for multiple weeks now with no problems.
“Hitting has no restrictions,” Senzel said. “Everything is good. I’m doing early work and extra work, live BP, it doesn’t matter.”
The bigger test for Senzel will come when he plays the outfield in a game, and it’s not clear at this point when that will happen. He’s gone through drills with the other Reds outfielders this spring, but Sunday and Monday was the first time he was allowed to throw on back-to-back days.
“Making some throws to bases is on the checklist. But other than that, I’m getting ready to play it but just not throwing yet,” Senzel said.
Will Senzel be ready in time for Opening Day? Like most players would respond when asked, he is expressing optimism that, yes, he should be good to go.
“It’s just going to come down to if my progression is going as planned and I am throwing 4-5 times a week and then we sit down with the medical staff and David for what the best decision is moving forward,” Senzel said on Monday. “But I have a good feeling that I should be ready to go for Opening Day.”
Realistically, it could work against Senzel that the Reds are chock full of outfielders. They signed Nick Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama this winter to add to a stable that already included Senzel, Jesse Winker, Aristides Aquino, Phillip Ervin and Josh VanMeter. That’s not even including two-way player Michael Lorenzen, Rule 5 pick Mark Payton and former 30-homer man Scott Schebler.
Having said that, the Reds are poised to contend this season, so if Senzel can show that he’s healthy and swinging the bat well this spring, he can still very well avoid the injured list and be in center field on Opening Day. His first opportunity will come Thursday.
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Buxton Close, Too
Senzel isn’t the only former top prospect coming back from shoulder surgery who is nearing a return to game action. We don’t have the exact date yet, but Darren Wolfson of KSTP-TV hears that Byron Buxton's (shoulder) Grapefruit League debut is coming "soon."
Like Senzel, Buxton had surgery last September to repair labrum damage in his shoulder. Unlike Senzel, Buxton’s procedure was on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, so throwing isn’t an issue for him. He still has some progressions to make with his hitting, though, with live batting practice expected to come in the next few days.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said at the start of spring training that Buxton could be ready for game action by mid-March. On Monday, he indicated that no decision on that had been made.
"The recovery couldn’t have really gone any better to this point," Baldelli said of Buxton. "That being said, we don’t have it mapped out as far as when we’re going to get him out there to play."
Buxton suffered through another injury-plagued campaign in 2019, playing just 87 games due to shoulder, wrist and concussion issues. However, when he was on the field he showed noteworthy improvement at the plate, posting a .827 OPS with 10 home runs and 14 steals across 295 plate appearances. Buxton also cut his strikeout rate significantly down to 23 percent while at the same time seeing a big jump in his exit velocity to 89.3 mph.
The Twins have indicated previously that Opening Day is the goal for Buxton. His current ADP in NFBC leagues sits at 157.
Paddack Posts More Zeroes
Will we get to see a fully unleashed Chris Paddack this season? Fantasy owners are surely hoping so.
Paddack was sharp again in his second Cactus League outing on Monday, spinning three scoreless innings in the Padres’ victory over the White Sox. The right-hander allowed two weak hits, walked one and made Tim Anderson look goofy on a strikeout.
In two starts this spring, Paddack has permitted three singles and one walk over five innings of work. He has fanned four batters.
The Padres’ Paddack Plan last season was to have the right-hander make each of his starts on at least one extra day of rest and never allow him to throw 100 pitches in an outing. He wound up making 26 starts and throwing 140 2/3 innings before being shut down with a couple weeks left in the season. Paddack’s numbers were fantastic, as the 24-year-old put up a 3.33 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 153/31 K/BB ratio.
Paddack is expected to be the Padres’ Opening Day starter on March 26 at home against the Rockies and “the reins are almost completely removed” as far as his workload goes, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote last month. Per Acee, the right-hander has set a goal of 180-plus innings, which seems perfectly attainable.
Quick Hits: Rays manager Kevin Cash said Monday that Blake Snell (elbow) is "feeling good" and remains on track to play catch Tuesday. … Xander Bogaerts (ankle) said Monday that he thinks he's "getting close". … Lucas Giolito (chest) is slated to make his Cactus League debut Friday against the Cubs. … Cody Bellinger was scratched from Monday's Cactus League lineup due to side discomfort. … Cole Hamels (shoulder) has yet to be cleared to resume a throwing program. … Trevor Bauer tossed three scoreless frames Monday in Cactus League play against the Dodgers. … Kyle Hendricks retired all nine batters he faced over three scoreless frames Monday in Cactus League play versus the Angels. … Charlie Morton shut out the Orioles for 2 1/3 innings in his start Monday. … Frankie Montas struck out a pair over two scoreless innings in Monday's Cactus League start against the Cubs. … Sean Newcomb held the Phillies off the scoreboard for three innings on Monday during Grapefruit League play. … Joe Ross pitched three scoreless innings Monday as the Nationals edged the Marlins 3-2. … Adrian Houser was removed from Monday's appearance in a "B" game due to tightness in his right thumb. … Jesse Winker went 2-for-2 with two RBI, a walk, and two runs scored as the Reds beat the Dodgers 6-2 on Monday in Cactus League play. … Steven Brault has been shut down from throwing due to a left shoulder strain. … Jeff Passan of ESPN has reported that Jose Bautista worked out as a pitcher this winter in hopes of returning as a two-way player.