The Reds announced this evening that outfielders Nick Senzel and Tyler Naquin have been placed on the COVID-19 injured list. Fellow outfielders Albert Almora Jr. and Ronnie Dawson have been selected to the majors as designated COVID substitutes.
It’s the second time this season that both Senzel and Naquin have gone on the virus list. They join first baseman Joey Votto, who hit the COVID list yesterday. The team didn’t announce whether either player has tested positive, is dealing with symptoms, or has been identified as a close contact.
That the team specified Almora’s and Dawson’s selections as being of the “substitute” variety is notable for their roster status. Under the 2022 health and safety protocols, the commissioner’s office has the sole discretion to determine whether a team has been sufficiently impacted by COVID to call up “substitute” players. If granted permission, the team can then return those substitutes back to Triple-A (and, if he was not previously on the 40-man, off the roster entirely) without utilizing a minor league option or passing the player through waivers.
Neither Almora nor Dawson were previously on the 40-man roster. Almora inked a minor league contract over the offseason, while the Reds plucked Dawson from the Astros in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. Both players can thus be taken off the 40-man and returned to Triple-A Louisville without clearing waivers as the team gets healthier.
Almora is the more familiar name for most fans. A top ten pick of the Cubs in 2012, he spent a few seasons as Chicago’s primary center fielder. Almora played strong defense and hit at a roughly league average level for his first couple years in the majors, but his offensive output turned downwards beginning in 2019. He played in 47 games but only tallied 54 plate appearances for the Mets last season. He has gotten off to a productive if atypical start at Louisville, hitting .380/.392/.460. Almora has walked just once in 51 plate appearances, but he’s also only punched out twice.
Dawson is an Ohio native who played collegiately at Ohio State. He made a brief debut with Houston last season, tallying six plate appearances in three games. The 26-year-old is hitting .283/.377/.435 over 106 plate appearances with the Bats. He has suited up at all three outfield positions but spent the majority of his time in the corners.