Joey Votto got the start at 1B yesterday, hit 2nd in the lineup for the Cincinnati Reds, and went 0 for 2 with a swinging strikeout and a jam-shot groundout to the shortstop of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Inauspicious was his return in the box score, yet the ability to finally shrug off major surgeries to his shoulder and biceps were the clear home run of the day.
The Reds have back their stalwart, and all signs point to his availability for the final two weeks of spring training equating to his expected presence in their lineup come Opening Day. Will there be rust there? Surely. Will the surgeries help turn back the clock to before his awful 2022 season? Perhaps. Will we see another resurgence akin to his brilliant 2021 rebound? For a team whose playoff chances need a microscope, that’s one of the major reasons why we’ll be tuning in.
With Joey now back and rumors persistently swirling that we’ll see Nick Senzel back in action this week - potentially both as an outfielder and an infielder, per The Enquirer’s Charlie Goldsmith - we’ve got enough new information to take another stab at what the Reds roster will look like come Opening Day. So, here’s that.
Catcher (3) - Tyler Stephenson, Curt Casali, Luke Maile
Infield (5) - Joey Votto, Jonathan India, Jose Barrero, Spencer Steer, Kevin Newman
Outfield (5) - Jake Fraley, Wil Myers, TJ Friedl, Will Benson, Nick Senzel
Starting Rotation (4) - Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, Luke Weaver
Bullpen (9) - Alexis Diaz, Lucas Sims, Luis Cessa, Reiver Sanmartin, Fernando Cruz, Buck Farmer, Ian Gibaut, Alex Young, Hunter Strickland
With off-days on back to back Fridays to begin the season, it’s not truly necessary for the Reds to carry a true 5th starter right out of the gate. The injury to Justin Dunn paired with the iffy outings from Connor Overton have seemingly put non-roster invitee Chase Anderson into the lead in that race, though he and prospect Brandon Williamson might well get squeezed temporarily to AAA Louisville to begin the season because of that technicality.
In the bullpen, each of Alex Young and Hunter Strickland would need 40-man roster spots to make the club, but the Reds can move both Dunn and Tejay Antone to the 60-day IL to make room.
The position players seem to be speaking for themselves in large part, much to the chagrin of veteran non-roster invitees like Jason Vosler and Chad Pinder. The lone exception is, of course, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, who has hit the absolute crud out of the ball from the moment Cactus League play began. I just get the hunch that Votto’s return squeezes his meteoric rise back into the realm of realism, and given that a) he’s never had an at-bat above AA and b) the Reds want to keep their future core together as much as possible, I think he’ll end up tucked back into the minors to begin the year alongside the formidable prospect group of Elly De La Cruz, Noelvi Marte, Matt McLain, & Co.
Is this the most talented 26-man roster I could conjure? It is not. It’s simply my best compiled guess when factoring in my own sentiments alongside what I feel the Reds will choose to do (and to not do).