With an offense that’s last in the NL, the Reds decided to bring up top prospect Nick Senzel and let him continue learning a new position at the major league level.
The Reds brought up Senzel for his major league debut at the start of their series against the San Francisco Giants on Friday. The 23-year-old outfielder was batting second and playing center, the spot they’ve been aiming him toward since the offseason.
“We don’t bring guys up to put them on the sidelines,” said Dick Williams, the president of baseball operations. “We expect him to inject some energy and help the outfield defense. Nick is ready to do that.”
He got the loudest ovation during pregame introductions and hit a flyout to center field in his first at-bat against Tyler Beede, another former first-round pick.
Senzel was taken second overall in the 2016 amateur draft out of Tennessee. He signed for a $6.2 million bonus, but his ascent was slowed by bouts of vertigo and a broken right index finger last season.
The Reds decided to turn the career infielder into a center fielder after Billy Hamilton was let go and nobody else on the roster had significant experience at the position.
Senzel played center during spring training and started the season at Triple-A Louisville to get more experience at the spot. A sprained right ankle sidelined him until April 23. He batted .257 with one double one homer and two RBIs in eight games and 35 at-bats.
Cincinnati’s .207 team batting average is last in the majors, the main reason the Reds have gotten off to a 13-18 start that left them last in the NL Central. The Reds decided they might as well bring up Senzel even though he’s only played eight games at Louisville this season.
“It’s an art, not a science,” Williams said. “I wish they taught you in GM school how to know what the day is.”
Senzel was informed of the team’s intentions after Louisville’s last game.
“That gave me a day to get settled down,” Senzel said. “Now, I’m here and ready to help this team win some games.”
The Reds optioned right-hander Matt Bowman to Louisville and moved second baseman Scooter Gennett to the 60-day injured list to create a spot for Senzel. Gennett sustained a major groin injury late in spring training.
Senzel was sidelined by vertigo in 2017 and early last year, as well. He batted .310 in 44 games for Louisville with six homers and 25 RBIs before breaking his right index finger. He played in the instructional league, making the switch to outfield, before surgery on Oct. 16 for bone spurs in his left, non-throwing elbow.
Manager David Bell decided to use him right away.
“It’s a big day,” Bell said. “It’s nice. It’s a special day. I hope he enjoys every minute of it. He should feel proud of everything he’s done to get here.
“I do remember my first day. It moves pretty fast. You try to slow it down. It’s like a dream come true because it is.”