Reds notes: After a peach milkshake and a six-plus hour car ride, Jesse Winker is back

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Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jesse Winker said he had watched every Reds game since he went on the injured list in the middle of August. On Thursday afternoon, he sat down to watch one from Memphis, Tennessee.

Later that day, Winker was supposed to play in his final Triple-A rehab game with the Louisville Bats against the Memphis Redbirds. But when Winker watched the Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, he canceled those plans.

He decided he was going straight to Cincinnati. Reds Minor League hitting coordinator C.J. Gillman drove Winker home, and on Friday he was back in the Reds lineup.

“I don’t think, realistically, feeling 100% was on the table,” Winker said. “I just wanted to get it good enough to just be able to come back and help. That’s all I wanted to do.”

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jesse Winker (33) watches his ball leave the park for a 3-run home run in the eighth inning of the MLB baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

One month after going on the injured list with an intercostal strain, Winker wrapped up the shortest rehab assignment of the Reds season. He took only five at-bats with the Louisville Bats, but he had bigger goals that he could only achieve in Major League games.

Along the six-and-a-half hour drive from Memphis to Cincinnati, Winker chatted with Gillman for most of it. They stopped at a Chick-fil-A for a peach milkshake. Winker called manager David Bell to update him on his progress.

Had it been earlier in the season, Winker likely would have taken more at-bats in Triple-A. On Friday, he said the reason why he didn’t is because he hadn’t been able to play meaningful baseball many times in September during his career.

“You only get to be part of a playoff chase so many times,” Winker said. “You don’t know the next time you’re going to be one game back for the Wild Card. I just felt like I wanted to play.”

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jesse Winker (33) celebrates with Cincinnati Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer (17) after scoring in the fourth inning of the MLB baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

Winker wanted to get back to Cincinnati as quickly as possible. Since there weren’t any direct flights from Memphis to Cincinnati, he traveled by car.

He had a full night of sleep in Cincinnati and prepared to face Dodgers Cy Young Award candidate Walker Buehler. One day later, the Reds All-Star left fielder was back in his No. 2 spot in the order to face one of the best teams in baseball.

“We all know who they are,” Winker said. “Their careers, the years they’re all having, the milestones that they have set, they all speak for themselves … But I like our lineup and I like the guys we’ve got going against them. I’m just really excited. I hope this city is excited.”

NAQUIN OUT: After outfielder Tyler Naquin was a part of a scary collision in the outfield on Saturday, the Reds placed him on the 10-day injured list on Friday with bruised ribs. Naquin collided with shortstop Jose Barrero on a short fly ball that landed between them.

Naquin is likely out for the rest of the regular season, but he had arguably the best year of his career in 2021.

Sep 11, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  Cincinnati Reds shortstop Jose Barrero (38) collides with center fielder Tyler Naquin (12) during the sixth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago, Naquin mentioned that this had been the first time that he had been this healthy for so much of the season. Naquin emerged as a non-roster invitee during spring training and became the Reds starting center fielder for nearly the entire season.

He has played in a career-high 127 games and posted the highest OPS (.809) since his rookie season in 2016.

“He has had a great year for us also,” Bell said. “He’ll be with us (in Cincinnati), but he’ll be missed on the field.”

BRACH RELEASED: For most of June and July, Brad Brach was one of the Reds best relief pitchers. Between June 4 and July 23, Brach had a 3.54 ERA, and opposing hitters had a .601 OPS against him.

Since then, the Reds traded for three relief pitchers, brought Michael Lorenzen and Lucas Sims off the injured list and saw Tony Santillan emerge during his rookie season. Brach then went on the injured list for about a month in August with a right shoulder impingement.

Brach returned from the IL on Sept. 5 and allowed four runs in his two appearances. The Reds designated him for assignment on Sept. 12, and after he went unclaimed the Reds released him on Friday.

Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Brad Brach (47) pitches in the eighth inning of the MLB baseball between the Cincinnati Reds and the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.


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