Welcome back to the Reds Beat newsletter! Mark Sheldon has covered baseball for MLB.com since 2001, including the Reds since 2006.
CINCINNATI -- When this newsletter reaches your inbox on this winter Tuesday, there will be just 22 days remaining until pitchers and catchers report to Reds Spring Training in Goodyear, Ariz.
For the most part, the significant transactions have been completed and the camp roster appears set. What remains to be seen is whether everybody recovering from injuries will be ready to go.
When it comes to first baseman Joey Votto and center fielder Nick Senzel, that readiness is less than clear.
First, Votto. The 39-year-old is still rehabilitating from August surgery on his left shoulder that repaired a torn rotator cuff and torn biceps. A few weeks ago, Votto noted that there was still “much pain, frustration” with his hitting and he understood it would still take some time to recover.
During Monday’s Reds Caravan kickoff, general manager Nick Krall said he wasn’t expecting Votto to be fully ready by the start of Spring Training.
“Probably not. I think he’s going to be a little delayed there,” Krall said. “That was expected at the beginning, from when he had surgery, that he wasn’t going to be unlimited, full-go at the beginning. We’ll just have to see where he comes in and go from there.”
Often, a delayed start to Spring Training can mean not being ready for Opening Day. When asked by a fan at the Caravan event, however, manager David Bell wasn’t counting out Votto.
“I talk to him usually once every week or two, and it's been a tougher rehab than he anticipated, I don't think he's ever really gone through anything like this,” Bell said. “So, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he's ready by Opening Day just knowing how hard he works and how dedicated he is. At the same time, it wouldn't surprise me if he was delayed a little bit, just because of how tough of an injury it is. We'll know a lot more here in a few weeks when we all get out to Goodyear.”
A fractured big left toe forced Senzel to miss the final 14 games of last season. Complications in the healing process required surgery and he was still wearing a boot and using a scooter to get around at Redsfest in December.
“Our doctors said he was making progress,” Krall said. “Where he is exactly, [in terms of] timeline, we’ll know probably when he gets into spring what his tolerance is. I think there’s the healing aspect of it and there’s also the baseball aspect, getting yourself ramped up throughout Spring Training instead of being ready to come to Spring Training.”
Unlike Votto, who will be Cincinnati’s regular first baseman, Senzel was expected to have to compete in camp to retain his role as the center fielder. Bell was scheduled to have a call with Senzel this week.
“I want to hear from him exactly where he is,” Bell said. “I’m hearing good reports. He’s feeling good. I’m planning on him being ready for Opening Day. I still believe -- and Nick Senzel does as well -- that he can play all over the field and be an everyday player, but with where we are as a team, he still factors into center field a lot.
“If something were to change there, I think Nick would be ready to incorporate more positions. Right now, we’re kind of going into the season where we left off. He’s still going to have to play center field, so that would be the focus right now.”
Others expected to compete for starting left-field and center-field spots are TJ Friedl, Jake Fraley, Stuart Fairchild and Michael Siani. Wil Myers is expected to be the right fielder.
“It’s just trying to get them some experience in the big leagues,” Krall said. “Who is going to play center is going to be more of a competition in spring.”
A CONVERSATION WITH JOSE BARRERO
In last week’s newsletter, I took a closer look at the camp competition for shortstop. Key to the battle is whether Jose Barrero can bounce back from a rough 2022 and win the job. Barrero batted .152/.195/.206 with two home runs in 48 big league games last season, but he didn’t lose his ability to stay upbeat.
“This sport can beat you down sometimes,” Barrero said through interpreter Angel Gonzalez. “Sometimes you have your lows and sometimes you have your highs. But it’s staying positive and being in the right mindset.”
I spoke further with Barrero in this Q&A. Although his English has greatly improved, his answers were interpreted by Gonzalez.
MLB.com: How was winter ball in Puerto Rico?
Barrero: Everything went well. I made adjustments to batting, my approach.
MLB.com: You got rid of the big leg kick for a toe tap in your approach. Did you notice a difference?
Barrero: Joel [McKeithan, the hitting coach] was there and we worked on it in Miami. I made the adjustment and I’m feeling really good with my swing now. The swing is the same. The toe tap gives me more balance on my base and a better view of pitches and recognizing pitches. I’m just looking forward to the season and helping in any way possible.
MLB.com: How do you feel about competing for a roster spot and the shortstop job?
Barrero: I feel good. I’m thankful for the opportunity I have right now. I’m looking forward to it. I will do whatever it takes to make the team and contribute to winning.
“Everybody said it’s going to be a little bit of a culture shock but I’m excited. For me, I get to get outside again because it’s hard to get outside in the cold weather. I’ll get out, see some teammates again, try some different food and see the ball in the sky again without having to see snow go with it.” -- Reds No. 20 prospect Austin Hendrick, who lives near Pittsburgh during the offseason
After the Reds Caravan, Hendrick and other outfield prospects will go to the Reds' academy in the Dominican Republic. They will work with former outfield great Eric Davis, who is special assistant to the general manager for player performance.
THIS WEEK IN REDS HISTORY
Jan. 23, 1992: The Reds signed free-agent right-hander Scott Bankhead to a one-year, $800,000 contract. Bankhead was 10-4 with a 2.93 ERA in 54 relief appearances during his lone season in Cincinnati.
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