And so the plot thickens. Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell added yet another layer to his lineup on Friday night after Tyler Stephenson pinch hit for TJ Friedl in the bottom of the sixth inning.
After emptying his bench of nearly every player with the exception of Jake Fraley, Bell had to get clever with his defensive alignment during the final three innings of Friday's loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
After Stephenson struck out in the bottom of the sixth inning, Bell moved Nick Martini from right field to left field, replaced Harrison Bader in center field with Will Benson, and flipped Christian Encarnacion-Strand from first base to right field. Stephenson then manned first base for the first time since the spring.
Will Christian Encarnacion-Strand see more time in the outfield when Joey Votto returns?
So the question has to be asked, with Joey Votto set to return on Sunday, will the Cincinnati Reds entertain the idea of putting Christian Encarnacion-Strand in the outfield? Doing so would allow both Votto and Encarnacion-Strand to get consistent at-bats while keeping Jake Fraley as the team's designated hitter.
This could be a creative, albeit, unconventional way for David Bell to get his best nine hitters into the everyday lineup. Encarnacion-Strand has been swinging a hot bat of late, and you know that Votto will be getting everyday ABs upon his return.
The situation, of course, will only get more complicated if Jonathan India is able to return to the Cincinnati lineup as planned next Tuesday. India began a rehab assignment at Triple-A Louisville on Friday, and if all goes well, he should ready to rejoin the club in Detroit next week.
Reds lineup vs. RHP
1. Jake Fraley
2. TJ Friedl
3. Spencer Steer
4. Elly De La Cruz
5. Christian Encarnacion-Strand
6. Joey Votto
7. Noelvi Marte
8. Will Benson
9. Tyler Stephenson
The Reds also have the right-handed bats of Nick Senzel, Stuart Fairchild, Harrison Bader, and Hunter Renfroe on the current roster, though one or more of those players might not be around once Votto and India return from the IL.
I wouldn't look for this to be a regular occurrence, especially in the starting lineup. But as certain games mov along, don't be shocked if Christian Encarnacion-Strand finds himself in the outfield in order to get the most productive bats into the Cincinnati Reds lineup.