The first thing you notice when seeing the lineup card for the Cincinnati Reds opening day at Great American Ballpark is who’s at the top and who’s at the bottom. And who’s not there at all.
At the top is Jesse Winker, the promising 24-year-old outfielder who hit .298 with an on-base percentage of .375 in 121 at-bats over 47 games with the big club last year. He’ll get the Reds’ first at-bat against Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer.
At the bottom is Billy Hamilton, the 27-year-old center fielder with thee terrific speed, great glove and normal leadoff hitter but just a .298 career on-base percentage.
And not in the opening day lineup is usual left fielder Adam Duvall, who has hit 30-or-more homers the past two years.
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“Coming into the season I was very confident we would have a four-man rotation in the outfield,” said Reds manager Bryan Price on Friday, including right fielder Scott Schebler. “Now it comes down to finding, not just the best matchups, it’s kind of a combination of things. You want to have good matchups but you also have four guys I think are regular major league outfielders. I’m not going to have anybody sitting on the bench for three, four, five days in a row.”
Price said he talked with Winker, Hamilton and Duvall to explain the situation.
“It’s really hard,” Price said. “I talked to Adam yesterday about it because I didn’t want him to show up and look at the lineup and see he’s not in it. This is a guy who’s been really good for our team and me as a manager in the way he goes about his business. This isn’t an indictment. This has nothing to do with Adam as much as it has to do with I’ve got four guys who are going to play.”
Price said the stats suggest left-handed hitting does better against Nationals’ starter Max Scherzer than right-handed hitting.
“Adam will be back in there (Saturday) and on a very regular basis,” Price said.
Hamilton, who is hitting ninth behind pitcher Homer Bailey a No. 8, said he wants to hit in his normal leadoff spot, but understands he has to adjust.
“I know for a fact I have to earn that spot again,” Hamilton said. “It’s something that’s not going to be given to me. And I’ve always been a guy who loves to take on challenges.”
NATIONALS AT REDS
When: Friday, March 30 at 4:10 p.m.
Where: Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati
Reds starting pitcher: Homer Bailey (6-9, 6.43)
Nationals starting pitcher: Max Scherzer (16-6, 2.51)
TV: Fox Sports Ohio