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Cincinnati Reds’ Jesse Winker could return vs. Dodgers; Naquin out

Aug 12, 2021; Cumberland, Georgia, USA; Cincinnati Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer (17) reacts with left fielder Jesse Winker (left) after hitting a two-run home run against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH – Jesse Winker went hitless in his first five at-bats on his rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville, but the results are secondary to the way his rib cage is feeling.

He played three innings Tuesday, five innings Wednesday and he was scheduled to play Thursday night. If all goes well Thursday night, he could be back in the Cincinnati Reds lineup as early as Friday’s series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

More:Defensive mistakes stun Cincinnati Reds in 9th inning, lose again to Pittsburgh Pirates

“He’s getting close,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He needed at least another game. Spoke with him (Wednesday) night. He’s going to play (Thursday) and then we’ll go from there. If everything goes well today, there is a chance he’ll be back in the lineup (Friday).”

Cincinnati Reds left fielder Jesse Winker (33) stands up at second on an RBI double in the third inning of the MLB Interleague game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Minnesota Twins at Great American Ball Park in downtown Cincinnati on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.

The Reds entered Thursday with an 11-16 record since Winker was placed on the 10-day injured list on Aug. 16 with an intercostal strain. Perhaps, Winker’s energy could provide a jolt to a team sliding in the wild-card standings.

With Jonathan India, Winker and Nick Castellanos hitting 1-2-3 in the batting order, the Reds have a 24-12 record. Despite missing the past month, Winker still ranks fifth in the National League in doubles (32) and fifth in batting average (.307).

More:Cincinnati Reds notes: Cessa stepping up in bullpen; Lorenzen working on running bases

Tyler Naquin seems headed toward a stint on the injured list when Winker is ready to be activated. Naquin hasn’t played since last Saturday when he collided with shortstop Jose Barrero attempting to make a catch in shallow center field.

Sep 11, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  Cincinnati Reds shortstop Jose Barrero (38) collides with center fielder Tyler Naquin (12) during the sixth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Naquin left Saturday’s game with bruised ribs and he hasn’t participated in on-field pregame activities. There have been situations where the Reds could’ve used his left-handed bat off the bench, but he’s clearly been unavailable in their series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  

“He is not progressing well,” Bell said. “He would be in the lineup if he could be. That kind of describes where he’s at right now. He’s still trying to recover.”

More:'We have to turn this around': David Bell maintains positivity with struggling Reds

With Naquin sidelined, Shogo Akiyama earned back-to-back starts in center field for the first time since Aug. 22-24. The Reds have the left-handed-hitting Akiyama along with the right-handed-hitting Aristides Aquino and Delino DeShields as options in center field. Barrero played one inning in center field Tuesday, too.

Sep 15, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez (53) deliver against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park.

MANAGING INNINGS: The Reds aren’t placing any limitations on rookie Vladimir Gutierrez, but they’re monitoring his workload as he’s scheduled to make at least two more starts before the end of the regular season.

Gutierrez hasn’t completed four innings in three of his last four starts, totaling a 7.80 ERA in his last 15 innings. He nearly has as many walks (six) as strikeouts (nine).


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