Reds rookie continues to shine even as outfield returns to full strength

The Reds look to have found the right combination of outfielders.

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St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

The Cincinnati Reds look to have finally gotten their season back on track and a big part of that has been finding consistency and balance in the lineup each night.

After a dismal 9-18 record in May, the Reds have started 8-3 in June with a +23 run differential in the process. TJ Friedl's return from the IL has been a massive boost to the lineup, and a vital part of the Reds' recent success.

During the month of June, Friedl is hitting .263/.391/.526 with three homers and three steals. He's slotted right back into place in center field, and that's allowed Reds manager David Bell to keep the remaining guys in the corners where they fit best.

Rookie Jacob Hurtubise has been a bright spot in the Reds lineup since his call up

Friedl isn't the only Reds outfielder playing well, however. When Friedl went on the IL back in May with a fractured thumb, the Reds recalled rookie Jacob Hurtubise to take his place. Hurtubise has played surprisingly well in Friedl's stead, hitting .213/.333/.277 with good plate discipline. He's also chipped in two steals and played solid defense in left.

Hurtubise is a lefty, which has given Bell the option to keep the lineup more balanced with left/right splits. It also was a hedge on relying so much on Nick Martini, who had been struggling before his recent demotion.

Martini will likely find himself back in the majors after Thursday's news that outfielder Blake Dunn had been optioned back to the minors, but Martini's presence on the roster shouldn't eat into Hurtubise's playing time too much.

The impending return of infielder Noelvi Marte might cause a bit of a roster crunch, but for now, the Reds outfield looks just about settled. Friedl will get the lion's share of playing time in center, while Hurtubise, Jake Fraley, and Will Benson will bounce between right field, left field, and DH.

If he's indeed recalled, Martini will join Stuart Fairchild on the bench in Cincinnati and give Bell plenty of options to play with depending on pitcher handedness and late-game defensive needs.

The Reds still have a long way to go but this group could potentially help lead them to a playoff spot later this year. If they do, it'll be in no small part thanks to the contributions of an unheralded rookie playing well enough to hang onto the job in a crowded outfield.

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