By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — The cavalry is coming, a two-man charge, but it is still on the other side of the hill. And the question is: Will it be too late for the Cincinnati Reds when it gets here?
Scooter Gennett and Alex Wood, neither seen nor heard from on the playing field all year, are creeping ever closer to their first appearances.
Second baseman Scooter Gennett begins a rehabilitation assignment tonight with the Class A Daytona Tortugas. Pitcher Alex Wood will have a live batting practice session Tuesday and Saturday.
Bell makes it clear that when Gennett returns, second base is his possession. When Wood returns, there will be a spot in the rotation for him.
That means there will be some casualties. Where and when will Derek Dietrich play? Where and when will Jose Peraza play? Who gets ousted from the rotation? Probably it will be Tyler Mahle, but it could be Anthony DeSclafani.
“Scooter is playing tonight in Daytona, five innings,” said Bell. “Alex has a live batting practice session Tuesday and another one scheduled for Saturday. If all goes well, I have to believe this next step is for him to go somewhere (on rehab to pitch in minor league games).”
Gennett will play four or five days for Daytona in Clearwater, Fla., and then move up to Class AAA Louisville for another two or three games.
“He is a big part of our team,” said Bell. “Once he got injured (in spring training) he was in our thoughts all the time, but not too much because you can’t think about it. Now that it is getting close it will be great to get him back. I’m so happy for him because it has been a long process.”
Bells didn’t blink or hesitate a mini-second when asked what Scooter’s role will be when he does get back.
“We all know he is going to play,” he said. “He has been a big part of our offense in the past years and there is no reason to believe that will change.
“We are looking forward to getting him back. There may be some limitations when he first comes back to make sure he is healthy. Other than that he will be one of our regular players,” Bell added.
Gennett, 29, was claimed off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers at the end of spring training in 2017. It was like paying $10 for a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo shoes.
He hit .295 with 27 home runs and 97 RBI in 2017 and backed that up last season with a .310 average, 23 home runs and 92 RBI. He was derailed this spring with a serious right groin injury, sustained while making a play in the field.
While searching for a positive about Gennett’s long absence, Bell acknowledged that Scooter will be fresh and shouldn’t wear out by season’s end.
“Yeah, I’ve seen that happen,” said Bell. “We just have to make sure he is ready to go. The good thing is that he has become so confident in his approach as a hitter. That will help him a lot. We can’t forget that he has missed a lot of time, so we can’t rush the rehab process. But, yeah, there is less concern about him getting tired once he is healthy.”
Wood was supposed to be the primary piece in the trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers that also brought Yasiel Puig and Kyle Farmer to the Reds.
The 28-year-old North Carolinian was to be the left hander in the team’s revamped rotation. They brought in Wood and right handers Tanner Roark and Sonny Gray to join Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani.
Wood, though, encountered back miseries during spring training and has had a couple of setbacks during his healing process. In 2017 Wood was 16-3 with a 2.72 earned run average in 25 starts for LA. Last season he was 9-7 with a 3.68 ERA in 27 starts and six bullpen appearances.
“For sure, yeah, we’re anxious to get Alex back,” said Bell. “That’s two good additions that we’re looking forward to getting back.”
Bell didn’t address the trickle down effect that the return of Gennett and Wood will have on the roster. It would, though, behoove a few players and pitchers to pick up their paces and pick them up fast.
For example, Derek Dietrich is 2 for his last 32, dropping his average from .273 to .237. While he still leads the team with 17 home runs, he hasn’t hit one since May 28 when he hit three against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
WHAT DOES A GUY have to do? After getting four hits and driving in five runs Sunday, Jesse Winker was not in Monday’s lineup.
He is a victim of manager David Bell’s platoon system and when a left hander pitches, Winker sits. With lefty Wade Miley on the mound for Houston Monday, Winker sat.
Analystics and statistics play into Bell’s methodology. Against left handers, Winker is hitting .176 in 34 at bats, but only four strikeouts but no extra base hits.
MUCH IS MADE ABOUT how the Houston Astros rose from the ashes of more than 100 defeats to World Series participants by stockpiling high draft picks in their minor league system.
While that’s true, they also went outside the organization to solidify what they were doing, particularly with their pitching rotation.
Their mainstays are Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley and Brad Peacock.
Verlander was acquired in a trade with Detroit, Cole was acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh. Miley was signed as a free agent from Milwaukee and Peacock was obtained in a trade with Oakland.
Only left hander Framber Valdez was signed originally by the Astros.