Overlooked no more, Reds outfielder TJ Friedl could carve out everyday role in 2023

Cincinnati Reds center fielder TJ Friedl.
Cincinnati Reds center fielder TJ Friedl. / Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY
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After joining the Cincinnati Reds just after the start of the 2022 season, rookie outfielder TJ Friedl fell flat on his face. Friedl had a cup of coffee with the major league club in 2021, but after the Reds dealt Jesse Winker last March and failed to re-sign Nick Castellanos, there were opportunities for Friedl to carve out a role for himself last season.

Friedl was called up just two weeks after the 2022 season began and things could not have gone much worse. He hit .179/.237/.254 during his first 20 games with the team and was then sent back to Louisville. The Reds recalled Friedl just three weeks later, started him in five of nine games, and didn't see much improvement.

Friedl was sent back to Louisville, and it looked as though his major league career may have hit a wall. But Friedl made an adjustment during his second stint with the Bats and returned with an edge. Friedl hit .267/.354/.533 after returning on August 16th with 17 extra-base hits, including eight round trippers.

Reds OF TJ Friedl could carve out everyday role in 2023.

During Sunday's exhibition game against the San Francisco Giants, TJ Friedl started in center field and hit cleanup for David Bell's squad. The results - Friedl went 2-for-3 with a double, triple, two RBIs, and a run scored. Not a bad day at the office, huh?

Now, of course, this is Cactus League play and the games don't really count. But for a player like Friedl, who's angling for more playing time, these opportunities allow the coaching staff to see what could be.

Friedl, who bats left-handed, has a leg up on the competition for the starting job in center field. With Nick Senzel still recovering from offseason surgery, Friedl may indeed be the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day starter in center field.

While Bell has said the Senzel will play when healthy, the former first-round pick doesn't have the best track record. It was already going to be difficult for Senzel to find playing time in 2023, but being slowed by a nagging toe injury certainly won't help.

Will Benson will have something to say about the center field job as well. Acquired from the Cleveland Guardians shortly before spring training began, Benson has a lot of power and is a great athlete. However, there's a lot of swing-and-miss in his bat as well.

TJ Friedl has a good eye at the dish, enough speed to track down balls in the outfield, and just enough power to put some doubt into the mind of the opposing pitcher. Friedl is in a great position with about a month until the upcoming season begins. The Pennsylvania native could carve out an everyday role with the Reds in 2023.

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