By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — With tremendous national pomp and circumstance, with bell clanging and cymbals clashing, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. makes his major league debut Friday night in Toronto.
He is baseball’s No. 1 prospect and is considered the best thing since pine tar on a bat. His debut was delayed because of an oblique injury during spring training. But after only eight games in Triple-A since his recovery, the Blue Jays are making him a big leaguer on Friday.
And that bring us to Nick Senzel, or it brings the Cincinnati Reds to Nick Senzel. The Reds No. 1 prospect was injured during spring training and just this week began playing at Class AAA Louisville.
With the much-trumpeted arrival of Guerrero with the Blue Jays, how long before the Reds give Senzel his ascension to the bigs?
Reds manager David Bell says caution prevails and there are three factors in play. He must prove he is healthy, he needs time to regain the timing in the batter’s box and he is still learning how to play center field, a position he had never played until the Reds stuck him out there for spring training.
“He is moving well and he is healthy,” said manager David Bell. “He has had a couple of hits and more than anything he is in a good frame of mind.”
In Senzel’s first game this week he singled his first time up and was 1 for 5 with three strikeouts. The next night he led a game at Durham with a double and was 1-for-3 in a rain-shortened game.
“It is important not to look too closely at what he does (at the plate) the first couple of days,” said Bell. “We have to give him a chance. But all our reports are good, nothing negative. We aren’t concerned with his ankle or anything else.”
Seeing what Toronto did with Guerrero, eight games at Triple-A before his call-up, what lies ahead for Senzel?
“No timetable and that hasn’t been determined yet,” said Bell. “I don’t think that would be fair to anyone. Right now Nick is playing in Louisville and No. 1 he has to get the confidence that he is healthy and we’ll go from there.
“In a way it is day-to-day, but he does need to have a process of getting his timing and getting his experience in the outfield,” Bell added. “That was the point of him being sent to Triple-A, to get that timing that he never really got in spring training. It will all work itself out, but this is an important time for him to get at bats, get his timing and play in the outfield.”
NOT ONLY HAS THE Reds starting rotation been a glowing positive, but the bullpen has followed the rotation’s lead. The bullpen has the second best earned run average in the National League, 3.28, second to San Francisco’s 2.48.
But the Reds bullpen has six wins to three for the Giants and both have seven saves.
The bullpen: Michael Lorenzen, Robert Stephenson, Wandy Peralta, Zach Duke, Amir Garrett, David Hernandez, Jared Hughes, Raisel Iglesias.
Bell said he didn’t realize his bullpen owns the second best ERA in the league, but it isn’t stunning news.
“I never really thought about the numbers (coming out of spring training), but I really felt great about our bullpen,” he said. “It was because of the guys who have been here and the addition that created depth.
“We’ve been able to use guys in roles that enables them to succeed,” he added. “I felt good about the addition of Zach Duke (the only addition different from last year). I’ve been around him and have seen what he can do for a bullpen. I had seen the young arms in the bullpen for a few years and thought they were just on the brink. A lot of that has happened so far and they’ve done a great job. I didn’t even realize we were second.”
The rotation also is second, a 3.30 to Pittsburgh’s 2.54. The hang-up, of course, remains the hitting, the lack thereof. The Reds are last in the league with a team batting average of .199, even worse than the Miami Marlins.
PITCHER ALEX WOOD threw a bullpen session Wednesday in Arizona and is scheduled to throw another one this weekend.
“He’ll throw two to three bullpens before the next step is decided,” said Bell, knowing that Wood’s sore back relapsed the last time he threw his first bullpen session, setting him back.”
And Scooter Gennett? Remember him? He is off his crutches and hanging around the clubhouse, but he is not yet doing any baseball activities.
“He is still a ways away,” said Bell. “I keep asking the same questions and I don’t think anyone knows for sure when he’ll be back and I don’t think anyone wants to try to predict too much. He has progressed faster than it could have been.”