Just a day after returning from the 10-day injured list, Jesse Winker is heading back to the IL due to the same intercostal strain that sidelined him for over a month. The Reds announced that both Winker and fellow outfielder Shogo Akiyama have been placed on the 10-day IL, with Akiyama suffering from a right hamstring strain. The two open roster spots will be filled by outfielder TJ Friedl (whose contract was selected from Triple-A), and right-hander Art Warren, who was activated from the 60-day IL.
Winker was hit by a Brusdar Graterol pitch in the eighth inning of last night’s 3-1 win over the Dodgers, and had to be removed from the game for a pinch-runner. Reds manager David Bell indicated that the swing prior to the HBP may have been the cause of Winker’s re-aggravation, but whatever the cause, Winker will now again miss time given this crucial stretch of the Reds’ season.
Given the timing, it is certainly possible that Winker might not play again in 2021. He’ll miss at least the next 10 days, and even if he is able to return after this second intercostal issue, the Reds might not want to risk further injury if the team is already out of the playoff race. This is technically the third time that Winker has been sidelined with this intercostal injury, as he missed a few games prior to his first IL stint in an attempt to solve the problem through some rest, before again being hampered when returning to action.
It’s a terrible break for both Winker and the Reds, as Winker’s bat is a major reason why Cincinnati is even in the postseason race. Winker has 24 home runs and a .305/.394/.556 slash line over 485 plate appearances, with a 151 wRC+ that ranks fifth among all players with at least 450 PA.
Winker and Akiyama join Tyler Naquin (bruised ribs) on the IL, leaving the Reds suddenly thin in the outfield. Aristides Aquino and Max Schrock have been serving as a left field platoon in Winker’s absence, with Delino DeShields getting action along with Naquin and Akiyama in center field. With Akiyama now out, it opens the door for Friedl to make his Major League debut as the Reds play some of their most important games of the season.
Friedl joined the Reds as an undrafted free agent in 2016, and he has worked his way through the system up to the Triple-A level this year, where he has batted .264/.357/.422 with 12 homers in 448 PA. Baseball America ranked Friedl 22nd on their midseason list of the top 30 prospects in Cincinnati’s farm system. Friedl has experience at all three outfield positions and has spent the bulk of his time in center, so he could essentially slide right into Akiyama’s spot as a left-handed hitting complement to DeShields.
Warren’s return might also be no small matter for a Reds bullpen that is eager for fresh arms. Warren posted a 1.88 ERA over 14 1/3 innings before being placed on the injured list due to an oblique strain back on July 15. The right-hander has posted some big strikeout numbers since the start of the 2018 minor league season, which earned him a brief look on the Mariners’ roster during the 2019 season. The Rangers claimed Warren from the Mariners after last season, and Cincinnati then acquired Warren in a trade with Texas last January.