Reds' NRI could surprisingly sneak onto Opening Day roster amid TJ Friedl's injury

How many of the Reds' non-roster invitees will find their way onto the roster?

Cincinnati Reds Mike Ford bat and helmet rest on the field
Cincinnati Reds Mike Ford bat and helmet rest on the field / Kareem Elgazzar, Cincinnati Enquirer via

With Noelvi Marte beginning the 2024 season on the restricted list after receiving an 80-game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs, the Cincinnati Reds already had a vacancy on their Opening Day roster.

But now, TJ Friedl may be sidelined to begin the year as well. The Reds outfielder suffered a sprained right wrist while attempting to make a diving catch during Saturday's Cactus League game against the Seattle Mariners. X-rays were negative, but Friedl will reportedly receive an MRI as a precaution.

With less than two weeks until Opening Day, Friedl's status is up in the air. While Mike Ford is not a defensive-fit in center field, the former Mariners slugger has brought his A-game to Goodyear this spring. Ford, who signed a minor-league contract with a non-roster invite, may yet find his way onto the Reds Opening Day roster.

Reds' NRI could surprisingly sneak onto Opening Day roster amid TJ Friedl's injury

Ford is not an outfielder. But the Reds have the trio of Stuart Fairchild, Will Benson, and Jake Fraley ready to be deployed onto the outfield grass when the 2024 season starts. Spencer Steer will see plenty of time in left field this season, and Jonathan India has received some reps in the outfield as well.

If Ford were to sneak onto the Reds Opening Day roster, it would most likely be as a designated hitter. Ford is not the most athletic player on the roster, but he can play first base, and the 31-year-old lets his bat do the talking. According to FanGraphs, Ford is hitting .409/.435/.545 with a wRC+ of 166 this spring.

Ford played for four different organizations in 2022. After bouncing between the Mariners, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Angels, and Atlanta Braves, Ford re-signed with Seattle during the 2022-23 offseason and made over 250 plate appearances in 2023 while posting a .798 OPS with 16 homers.

Ford is one of three non-roster invitees fighting for a roster spot with a little over a week remaining until Opening Day. In the batters' box, Ford has distanced himself from the likes of Josh Harrison (.250/.250/.350) and Tony Kemp (.316/.350/.579). However, both Harrison and Kemp offer much more defensive versatility than Ford.

The roster battle entering the final week of spring training likely comes down to those three non-roster invitees, but Friedl's injury adds another layer to the equation. With all things being equal, it's going to be hard to keep Ford off the Reds Opening Day roster. Once Friedl's MRI results come back this week, Reds manager David Bell will have a much clearer picture of how his Opening Day roster is going to look.

More Reds News from Blog Red Machine