TJ Friedl's discouraging injury update provides more chances for this Reds outfielder

There's always a silver lining.
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Stuart Fairchild
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Stuart Fairchild / Jeff Dean/GettyImages

TJ Friedl did not receive the news he was hoping to hear this past week. After injuring his wrist during spring training, Friedl was placed on the 10-day IL to begin the season. The Cincinnati Reds outfielder received a recheck earlier this week, and the MRI determined that another 7-10 days of light activity would be necessary before Friedl could begin ramping up for his 2024 debut.

This isn't the news that Reds fans, nor Friedl for that matter, were hoping to hear. Friedl is arguably Cincinnati's best outfielder, consistently excels against left-handed pitchers, and is one of the most vocal leaders on the team. The Reds need Friedl's bat (and glove) back in the lineup.

But Stuart Fairchild has done a tremendous job in his stead. Fairchild was a fringe player heading into spring training, but his strong display during Cactus League play warranted his inclusion on the Reds Opening Day roster. With Friedl expected to remain on the IL for the next few weeks, Fairchild will surely continue to receive increased opportunities to shine.

TJ Friedl's injury update provides more chances for Reds OF Stuart Fairchild

Fairchild made a highlight-reel defensive play during the Reds 5-0 beatdown of the Chicago White Sox on Saturday. Diving to his right to take a hit away in the bottom of the four inning, Fairchild helped preserve Reds' starter Nick Lodolo's no-hitter for the time being.

No one has ever questioned Fairchild's speed or athleticism. Last season, according to Baseball Savant, Fairchild's sprint speed was among the 92nd percentile in all of baseball at 29.2 feet per second.

It was always Fairchild's bat that came into question. But without Friedl in the lineup, Fairchild has become a regular against left-handed pitching. Fairchild's .389/.476/.389 slash line against southpaws seems to suggest that he's been able to fill the void left by Nick Senzel.

Last season, Senzel was manager David Bell's go-to bat against left-handed pitching. The Reds chose to part ways with Senzel this winter; the former first-round pick was non-tendered and signed with the Washington Nationals. Fairchild is much more durable than Senzel, and can play all three outfield spots (not just center field).

With Friedl's MRI pushing back his 2024 debut, expect to see more of Fairchild in the coming weeks. The former second-round pick has gone from a fringe-roster player to a must-start against left-handers.

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