Reds: Knee surgery should end the Nick Senzel in center field experiment

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 12: Nick Senzel #15 of the Cincinnati Reds in action. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 12: Nick Senzel #15 of the Cincinnati Reds in action. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

The hits just keep on coming for the Cincinnati Reds. On Wednesday, it was revealed that Nick Senzel, who’d been on the 10-day IL with knee inflammation, will undergo surgery on Friday and miss 4-6 weeks of action. This should officially end the Senzel is an outfielder experiment.

My heart goes out to Senzel. I know there’s the naysayers that constantly want to harp on how injury-prone the Reds centerfielder has been throughout his career, but let’s not forget that he’s just 25-years old. The former first-round pick plays with such hustle, but body just seems to be unable to hold up to the rigors of a full season in the outfield.

Reds outfielder Nick Senzel just can’t catch a break.

It seems like every time Nick Senzel starts to gain momentum, the injury bug jumps up and bites the former University of Tennessee standout. During his rookie season, Senzel missed the chance to start on Opening Day due to service time manipulation, but also an ankle sprain kept him out action during the early part of the minor league season.

You’ll remember, while in the batters box, a foul tip saw the baseball bounce up and strike Senzel in the eye causing the centerfielder to miss a couple games. Then, near the end of the 2019 season, after crashing into the outfield wall, Senzel miss the remainder of the season with shoulder injury that required surgery.

Last season, the Reds outfielder missed nearly a month with an undisclosed illness, and on Opening Day this season, Senzel was forced out the game following a diving catch in center field. This latest injury comes after the former No. 2 overall struck his left leg against the outfield fence while chasing down a fly ball.

It’s time for the Reds to permanently move Nick Senzel to the infield.

If all goes well, Nick Senzel is expected to make a full recovery and be back to baseball activities in 4-6 weeks. Forgive me if I’m a bit pessimistic. Not because of Senzel’s injury history, but because we’ve been fed this type of line before. It was assumed that both Senzel and Mike Moustakas would be back in a matter of days, then both wind up on the 10-day IL.

The Reds were not wrong when they tried moving Nick Senzel to the outfield grass. Following the dismissal of Billy Hamilton during the 2018-2019 offseason, the team had no starting centerfielder.

With Eugenio Suarez firmly entrenched at third base, the Reds made the bold move to insert Senzel into the lineup as an outfielder. During his rookie season, Senzel performed admirably, and showed flashes of the athleticism that led the front office and coaching staff to believe that the former first-rounder could make the transition.

The problem with putting Nick Senzel in center field is the style of play that the 25-year-old exhibits. Senzel plays the game with grit and determination. It’s an admirable set of traits, and it’s what got him to the big leagues. It’s also what’s going to find him out of spot on the roster due to injury if he remains the team’s starting centerfielder.

You’ll never convince Senzel to slow down; he’s not wired that way. So, it’s up to the Cincinnati Reds to protect him from himself and return him to the infield dirt permanently. Senzel played second and third base all through the minor leagues, and has shown at the major league level that he’s more than capable of playing the position.

Whether he supplants one of the regulars, takes over at shortstop, or plays a super-utility role, Nick Senzel’s spot on this team should be on the infield. It’s time to abandon the “Nick Senzel is a centerfielder” experiment before he injures himself beyond repair.

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The Cincinnati Reds have plenty of capable outfielders in Shogo Akiyama, Mark Payton, and Tyler Naquin. Aristides Aquino is also expected to return very soon. If Nick Senzel is shagging balls on the outfield grass instead of taking grounders up the middle of the infield when he returns, the Cincinnati Reds are making a big mistake.