The Reds announced Friday that they’ve reinstated outfielder Shogo Akiyama from the 10-day injured list and put Joey Votto on the injured list in his place. Votto is expected to be out three to four weeks after fracturing his thumb in yesterday’s game. Akiyama has yet to play in 2021 due to a hamstring injury.
Perhaps of more interest to Reds fans will be the new-look defensive alignment the team is rolling out in the wake of Votto’s injury and Akiyama’s return. They’ll open this weekend’s series against the Indians with Mike Moustakas sliding over to first base in Votto’s place, while Nick Senzel moves from center field to second base. Eugenio Suarez is back at third base today, with Kyle Farmer stepping in for him at shortstop. Tyler Naquin is in Senzel’s customary center field, and Akiyama is getting a day in left while Jesse Winker serves as the designated hitter.
This particular alignment obviously won’t be the norm in Votto’s absence, as the Reds won’t have the DH in most of the games they play over the next month. But Moustakas sliding over to first base and Senzel moving from a crowded outfield into the infield could be frequently featured tactics. Second baseman Jonathan India has ample experience at third base, of course, so it’s possible we’ll see a frequent infield of India, Suarez, Senzel and Moustakas. Meanwhile, the Reds will rotate Winker, Naquin, Nick Castellanos and Akiyama in the outfield. Presumably, with the first three all hitting so well to begin the year, they’ll be viewed as the starting trio.
That said, the club surely still has hope of a better performance for Akiyama in is second season at the MLB level. The former Seibu Lions star signed a three-year, $21MM deal with Cincinnati in the 2019-20 offseason, and while he got on base at a nice clip last year, he struggled to hit for much average or power. The now-33-year-old Akiyama batted .245/.357/.297 with six doubles, a triple, no home runs and seven steals (10 attempts) through his first 183 big league plate appearances.