CINCINNATI — The game was over, an 11-4 win for the Louisville Bats at Huntington Park in Columbus and outfielder Jesse Winker was in a glow from a 2 for 5 game that pushed his batting average to .323.
The glow was to get as bright as a full moon on a clear night.
Bats manager Delino DeShields called Winker into his office and said, “You’re going to the big leagues.”
Winker cocked his head and looked quizically at DeShields and said, “Are you messing with me?”
This was no messing around. The 23-year-old outfielder, drafted No. 1 by the Cincinnati Reds in 2012, was promoted from Triple-A Friday.
AND HE BETTER SOAK UP the experience quickly. It is likely that Winker will be sent back to Louisville after Saturday’s game when the Reds call up pitcher Sal Romano to start Sunday’s game.
But for now, when somebody asked Winker how the view was from Cloud Nine, he said, “It’s pretty incredible. It is what you dream about as a kid, right? I’ve just kind of laddered my way up through the organization and now I’m at the top and I get to help the big club win. It really hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Winker was sent to Louisville fairly early in spring training, even though he was doing well and thought he was ready. But he didn’t moan or go through a whoa-is-me process.
“I thought I had a good spring, but it just wasn’t my time yet,” he said. “I’ve always believed in the Reds’ plan for me, never doubted that, and when I was told I was goingr to Triple-A I treated it as a work trip. I told myself I would get better and be ready when they call me. And that’s what I did. Now I’m here and I’m ready.”
BUT MANAGER BRYAN PRICE makes it clear that this is just a cameo apperance for Winker and that he will be on the bench for two games, “And maybe get one at bat as a pinch-hitter, but that may be a very import at bat.
“He gives us another lefthanded hitting option and gives Jesse some experience up here, although it might not be a real long stay,” Price added. “We have our outfield right now and he is a supplemental piece who can help us while he is here. Our outfield is set with Scott Schebler, Billy Hamilton and Adam Duvall.”
WINKER, THOUGH, IS TREATING it as an opportunity. Maybe they’ll change their minds about sending him back.
His mother, father and two brothers were in the stands Friday and he said, “I called mom Thursday night and within an hour she had the flights booked.
“I’m just here to help the team win and play hard and then we’ll see what happens,” he said. “I was here during the winter and I didn’t have a locker and I was looking around trying to figure out where I was going to be. I figured it would be here.” His locker, with uniform No. 33 dangling from a hanger, was in Rookie Row, next to pitcher Amir Garrett. “They could have put me anywhere. They could have put me in the shower and I would have been OK with it.”
It is the old scenario that the Reds don’t want a young player sitting on the bench when he can be playing every day and improving at Triple-A.
“His time here is a reward for a guy we think is going to be a real good player,” said Price. “He is working and doing everything we asked him to do. He has improved every part of his game, from his preparation to his work ethic to going to a leadership academy and making a total commitment to being a better outfielder and a better baserunner.
“He is doing all the necessary work and that’s great, especially for a guy targeted as a top prospect early on,” Price added. “Sometimes that creates more hurdles for a young targeted player than a guy who feels like he has to scratch for everything.”
WINKER BEGAN SCRATCHING IN 2013 at Class A Dayton and savors his experience there.
“I love Dayton,” he said. “Dayton was incredible and the fans there were awesome. I was 19 years old and it was really a fun summer for me. I learned a lot and had an awesome year. The fans supported me and they support everybody who goes through there. All the guys who go through there love it because it is truly a special place.”
THERE WAS SPECULATION that either Cody Reed or Robert Stephenson might make Sunday’s start in place of disabled Rookie Davis. But it will be Romano, a dominant spring training pitcher who is dominating at Triple-A.
“There is a reason Reed and Stephenson are in the bullpen,” said Price. “That reason is that I feel we can build them into big league starting options by building their confidence and getting comfortable using the bullpen as that vehicle to get there. Inevitably, one or both, eventually will get there. Our intentions are to certainly get Cody Reed back into the rotation.”
It may be a short stay for Romano, too. Price said no matter how well Romano does Sunday, when Rookie Davis is ready he will be back in the rotation, with the plan for him to start April 26 in Milwaukee.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“All hands on deck at all times.” — Manager Bryan Price’s message to his bullpen about how and when they might be used.