Nick Senzel's next crack at earning a big league spot with the Reds begins Tuesday.
The top Reds prospect will make his season debut with Triple-A Louisville when the Bats open a three-game series with Durham at Louisville Slugger Field, MLB.com reported. The newly converted outfielder has been sidelined since March 25, when he sprained his right ankle while sliding into second base in a Minor League Spring Training game.
Over the past week, the Reds put Senzel through extended spring training at the team's complex in Goodyear, Arizona. Two straight days playing seven innings in center field were enough to prove the 23-year-old is healthy.
"He's a kid who's worked hard," Reds general manager Nick Krall told MLB.com on Sunday. "He's really done a good job."
Senzel had a successful run in Major League camp before being reassigned. In 39 at-bats, the University of Tennessee product hit .308 with six doubles and four stolen bases. But his offense -- the main reason he's MLB.com's No. 5 overall prospect -- was not what was going to earn him a spot on the Reds' Opening Day roster. A .310/.378/.509 slash line in 44 games in the International League last year already proved he's ready for The Show.
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His defense was a proving ground. With Senzel's usual infield spots occupied by regulars at the big league level, a move to the outfield was the most direct route to getting his bat to Great American Ballpark. He competed for the center field job during Cactus League play, but the Reds wanted to see more before trusting him with a key defensive spot. Scott Schebler won the position battle.
In 15 starts this season, Schebler is batting .170. If Senzel stays healthy and gets comfortable in the outfield, his days as a Minor Leaguer could be numbered.
"Going to a new position, the learning curve is extremely high," Krall told MLB.com. "You've got to let him play games, get some reps in center field and see how it goes from there."