GOODYEAR, Arizona – When Aristides Aquino circled the bases, he looked the same as he did in August 2019.
On Wednesday night against the Texas Rangers, he hit a home run in the ninth inning to reduce the Cincinnati Reds’ deficit to one run. Aquino pulled the ball over the left field fence in the direction of the scoreboard far behind the outer field wall, and “The Punisher” hit 14 times as in August 2019.
It was his first home run of spring as he battled for a spot on the squad and a chance to stay with the organization.
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“If he can make this team we will hopefully get consistent playing time and start, but there is also a possibility that he will come off the bench,” said manager David Bell. “There are obviously all aspects of the game, but he’s a talented player.”
On Wednesday morning, the Reds announced that Aquino would have no other option for a smaller league. As a result, if Aquino does not get the team out of spring training, he will be put on waivers and potentially claimed by another team.
If Aquino doesn’t start the season on the MLB roster, chances are he won’t be in the Reds organization next week.
“I don’t think I have the opportunity to make a decision about what happens next,” said Aquino through the translator Jorge Merlos. “The only thing I can control is what I get out of the field.”
Aquino entered the spring as the lead contestant as the fifth outfielder, but a significant change in his batting stance did not produce immediate results. On Wednesday, he raised his spring batting average to 0.281 and his OPS to 0.956. But Aquino has had an up and down spring so far.
Against the San Diego Padres on Tuesday, Aquino scored a double with two outs at the end of ninth place and the Reds two runs. When Aquino touched second place he saw the throw from the outfield miss its target and tried to run to third place but was kicked out to end the game.
Bell called the game an aggressive mistake and Aquino has had his best run of the spring since then.
“The consistency was really the focus that I was working on,” said Aquino.
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According to Bell, Aquino’s turnaround began with that double against the Padres. Aquino entered that game with a batting average of 0.214 this spring. In the ninth inning, he worked long in the bat and polluted several pitches in order to stay alive. Then he hit an RBI double to the left, showing why he could be a valuable right-handed player this season.
Then, Wednesday night against the Rangers, Aquino had his most interesting game of the spring.
In the second inning, Aquino turned a long attack into an RBI line drive single-to-right field, giving the Reds the first run of the game. A punch later, Aquino tried to get home in doubles and the home throw beat him by about two seconds. As a result, Aquino was marked on the base trails for the third time in a row when he reached the base.
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When the Rangers pulled up with two outs in the ninth inning on Wednesday, Anderson Tejeda hit a line drive into right field. Aquino tried to catch the floor ball, but Aquino bobbed it and was charged with a mistake.
After the Reds finished third, Aquino sprinted from the right field to the dugout, put on his helmet, and ran the inning against a pitcher he had not yet encountered.
He undoubtedly hit a home run and tensed his muscles as he rounded third base.
“He will help us on the bases, he will help us on the outfield and he will definitely help us on the plate,” said Bell. “It’s been a really good sign lately to see the quality of the bats he’s got.”
Michael Lorenzen’s status is TBD
The Reds announced their starting rotation for the rest of the spring, and Michael Lorenzen wasn’t there.
Lorenzen left the B game on Saturday with a slight shoulder strain, and Bell said it was possible Lorenzen won’t be ready for the start of the season.
“Given that we’re building it up as a starter, that’s not the most important consideration anyway, so we’re trying to get it back as soon as possible so we can continue building it up,” said Bell.
Max Schrock scratched
Infielder Max Schrock was first in the Reds line-up on Thursday and played first base when he was fighting for a replacement role. He was dropped from the line-up with a hamstring injury and replaced by Nicky Delmonico.
This is Schrock’s second injury this spring, but he hit .440 out of 25 bats this spring.