By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — When it comes to his outfielders, Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell can play musical chairs with enough players to cover every note on the scale.
And it is only a matter of what day it is, or what inning it is, or what double switch is involved for him to make full usage.
His outfield menu: Aristides Aquino, Nick Senzel, Phillip Ervin, Jesse Winker, Josh VanMeter, Brian O’Grady, Michael Lorenzen, Derek Dietrich and an outfielder to be named later.
In most games, they all play somewhere in the outfield and bat somewhere in the order.
Bell smiled when asked about his plethora of outfielders and said, “Yeah, I know. But, hey, you saw Tuesday night that you can’t have enough guys with both teams going back-and-forth (seven pitchers for the Phillies and six pitchers for the Reds).” That necessitated a lot of pinch-hitters and provided Bell the means for his double switches.
The one constant since early August is Aristides Aquino manning right field and batting fourth, with mammoth results.
That could change soon. Bell is contemplating trying Aquino in center field.
“There has already been a few times where we talked about wanting to see him in center,” said Bell. “We think he can play there. But it hasn’t been necessary. He has played a few games there in the minors.
“The possibility is there that he’ll be in center before the end of the year,” Bell added.
For certain Aquino has more than acquitted himself in right field. He has made a half dozen above-and-beyond catches — after a long run, against the wall, chasing balls in foul territory.
With all the home runs, hard-hit singles and doubles and rifle-shot ground balls, his defense has not been talked about.
“He moves really well, gracefully,” said Bell. “He covers more ground than we realize, with those long legs. He has a really strong arm.”
The arm, though, is where Bell sees a need for some diligent work.
“He has room for improvement with his arm and we really haven’t spent much time with him on it yet,” Bell added. “We’ll find things for him to do to be more accurate and get more carry on his throws. But he does have a really strong arm.”
JESSE WINKER, on the injured list since August 22, is nearly ready for a return.
“He is a couple of days away from starting to swing,” said Bell. “It could happen pretty fast. Yes, he will be back.
“It will be great to get him back because he was making really great strides in a lot of ways. We want to see him play in September and continue that. The big thing is to get him back and playing again. He had made some nice adjustments and was feeling good before he went down.”
Prior to lapsing onto the injured list with a cervical strain, Winker was hitting .342 with three homers, five doubles and nine RBI over a 27-game span. His OPS was a lofty .982
IT WAS FEARED that Eugenio Suarez might end up on the 10-day injured list after he was hit by a pitch on the hand Sunday in St. Louis.
But before Wednesday’s game Suarez walked through the clubhouse dragging a bat, headed for the field, “To see how it goes. I’m taking batting practice.”
It is amazing what a guy with 40 home runs in search of 100 RBI (he has 87), will do to get back in the lineup.
“He could be available off the bench tonight and maybe start Thursday afternoon,” said Bell. “He was close to being available Tuesday. . .he even went into the clubhouse and put his jersey on.
“It is better to wait another day,” said Bell. “He got lucky. It is so easy to break those little bones in the hand. Right now it is just a bad bruise.”
WITH SUAREZ OUT of the lineup Wednesday, Bell bumped Aquino up from fourth to third in the batting order. Tucker Barnhart was placed in the clean-up spot, a first for his career.
When Bell was told Barnhart was making his debut at clean-up, he said, “Really? Tucker is a guy we want up at the plate with runners on base and he gets on base.
“It made sense for tonight,” said Bell. “Since coming off the injured list he has been one of our best hitters, for a while now.”
Since coming off the injured list 33 games ago Barnhart is hitting .310 with four homers, seven doubles and 18 RBI. He is slugging .500 with a .405 on-base average.