It’s been roughly a month and a half since we last caught a glimpse of Tyler Stephenson in a Cincinnati Reds uniform. After his brilliant one-game cameo, the Reds sent their promising catching prospect back to their Prasco facility for more seasoning despite the fact that his initial foray into big league ball included a dinger and a perfect night at the plate.
Well, he’s now back for the stretch run, as the Reds recalled him as part of a series of moves (and notes) after Monday’s off day.
The #Reds today recalled from the alternate site C Tyler Stephenson and RHP José De León, placed on the 3-day paternity list RHP Nate Jones and designated for assignment IF Matt Davidson. pic.twitter.com/XMoHVDoc4V— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) September 8, 2020
Jose De Leon was also recalled, as you can well read, and he’ll take the place of reliever Nate Jones, who is on the paternity list. Making way for those moves on the roster was Matt Davidson, who struggled mightily of late after initially picking up some large hits against LHP.
Of similar importance was the latest news on Nick Senzel, who has been sidelined since August 14th in mysterious circumstances. Obviously, everyone has long tried to connect the dots between his absence, the odd manner in which he exited the field on the 14th, and the Reds anonymous positive COVID-19 test from the same day, and the lenght of his absence certainly seems to indicate he’s been trying to work his way back from something reasonably debilitating.
In talking with reporters earlier Tuesday, President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams indicated that he hoped Senzel could be back as early as Friday, as the Reds themselves relayed on Twitter.
Nick Senzel could return to the #Reds as early as Friday, according to President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams. pic.twitter.com/NEaT7190Ie— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) September 8, 2020
Senzel was in the midst of playing quite well when he hit the IL, the owner of an overall 110 OPS+ on the season and a .943 OPS over the last 12 games in which he played. As former RR fearless leader Joel Luckhaupt pointed out, the CF production since Senzel hit the IL has been positively abysmal, and it’s worth noting the Reds are an even .500 in games in which Senzel has played this year.
(They’re 5 games under .500 without him.)
Whether or not any of this is enough to galvanize the team with so few games remaining is, well, debatable. With just 19 games to play, the Reds sit 2.5 games out of a playoff spot, with 12 of their remaining games slated to be against teams currently in playoff position (and another 3 of them against Milwaukee, who’s both ahead of them in the standings and fighting for their playoff lives, too).
Is it embarrassing to be clinging to hope in this farfetched scenario given how long-done seasons have been for the Reds with 19 games remaining over and over and over again in recent times? Sure, it sure as hell is. As a Reds fan, though, I simply don’t know what else to do.