Reds notes: Joey Votto returns, but the Reds lose four players to the restricted list

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TORONTO –– Due to COVID-19 restrictions in Canada, the Cincinnati Reds had to make a few necessary transactions before this weekend’s series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Outfielder Albert Almora Jr., infielder Brandon Drury, starting pitcher Tyler Mahle and reliever Joel Kuhnel were placed on the restricted list. Utility player Taylor Motter, outfielder Aristides Aquino and right-handed pitcher Graham Ashcraft joined the active roster as replacement players.

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In an unrelated transaction, Reds first baseman Joey Votto was activated from the injured list. He completed a rehab assignment in the minor leagues and will join the Reds for the series in his hometown.

Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) hits a single in the sixth inning during a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, April 22, 2022, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) hits a single in the sixth inning during a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, April 22, 2022, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

“It speaks for itself getting Joey back in our lineup,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He’s healthy, he’s not sick and that’s a relief. He was on the brink of a couple adjustments that he figured out. I know he’s anxious to get back playing.”

Almora Jr., Drury, Mahle and Kuhnel are expected to re-join the Reds active roster following the series in Toronto. MLB players have to be vaccinated to enter Canada, and they’re not paid for games missed on the restricted list if they’re not vaccinated.

Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Drury (22) fields a groundball in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Wednesday, May 11, 2022, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Reds won, 14-11.
Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Drury (22) fields a groundball in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Wednesday, May 11, 2022, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Reds won, 14-11.

Motter has primarily played in the infield this season with the Reds in Triple-A, but he has made 24 career starts in MLB in the outfield. He signed with the Reds in April as a minor league free agent. He made his big league debut in 2016 with the Tampa Bay Rays and has a .191 career batting average in 157 MLB games. Last year, Motter appeared in 16 MLB games between the Colorado Rockies and the Boston Red Sox.

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Ashcraft, according to MLB Pipeline, is the No. 8 prospect in the organization. He has a 101 mph fastball and a 1.65 ERA this year as a starter for the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate. This weekend, Ashcraft is expected to give the Reds a long relief option out of the bullpen, and he isn’t scheduled to make a start.

“He’s highly thought of in our organization for a lot of reasons,” Bell said. “He has the ability to pitch here, there’s no question he has the stuff. He’s very talented. Really when it comes to Graham, it’s the timing of when is the right time for him to be here, to get here and be able to stay.”

Cincinnati Reds non-roster invitee pitcher Graham Ashcraft follows through on a delivery during a spring training game against the Chicago Cubs, Monday, March 21, 2022, at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz.
Cincinnati Reds non-roster invitee pitcher Graham Ashcraft follows through on a delivery during a spring training game against the Chicago Cubs, Monday, March 21, 2022, at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz.

Aquino was designated for assignment in April, but he has hit .314 with a 1.148 OPS in 10 Triple-A games.

The Reds also placed relief pitcher Ross Detwiler on the bereavement list.

Lucas Sims injury update

SIMS UPDATE: The Reds placed reliever Lucas Sims on the 15-day injured list on May 12 with back spasms, which is also an issue that Sims dealt with during the offseason.

Bell said Sims will miss more than the minimum 15 days.

“He’s feeling better each day, doing core stabilization-type exercises,” Bell said. “He hasn’t really started throwing yet. It’s going to be more than the (15) days. I don’t have an estimate on how much longer.”

Nick Senzel rehab assignment with Louisville Bats

OFF TO REHAB: The Reds sent center fielder Nick Senzel on a rehab assignment to Triple-A on Wednesday.

“I do know (the rehab assignment) would be through the weekend,” Bell said. “Hopefully he’s ready to go when we get back home.”

TJ Friedl in the leadoff spot

LEADOFF HITTER: Between May 8 and May 19, Reds outfielder TJ Friedl was the leadoff hitter in every game that the Reds played against a right-handed starting pitcher. Even though Friedl began the year in Triple-A and even though Friedl is hitting .164 with a .229 on-base percentage, Bell has stuck with Friedl at the top of the order versus right-handed starting pitchers.

“It’s just his ability to get on base,” Bell said. “He has shown enough over the last year-and-a-half with his development that he has been given that opportunity. There’s a lot that goes into that, but the ability for him to walk, have good at-bats, that gives me confidence to keep putting him in that position. He doesn’t always have to hit his way on base. That helps.”

May 13, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Cincinnati Red right fielder TJ Friedl (29) hits an infield single against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
May 13, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Cincinnati Red right fielder TJ Friedl (29) hits an infield single against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Joey Votto returns, Reds lose players to the restricted list