Earlier today the Cincinnati Reds did not yet know the diagnosis for just how bad TJ Friedl’s wrist injury was. It was announced as a sprained wrist on Saturday, but three hours prior to the game on Sunday, manager David Bell told reporters that the team, doctor, and TJ Friedl would get together later today to talk about things. The results are in and Friedl’s wrist is fractured. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting that he will have it checked out again in 3-4 weeks, at which point they will have a better idea of when he could return to the field.

What this means is that TJ Friedl is going to miss opening day. And if it’s going to be 3-4 weeks before he’s checked out again, then he’s probably going to miss at least 5-6 weeks at a minimum. Six weeks would put him out until the end of April. It’s possible that he could be back sooner, but also possible that he could be out longer.

For Cincinnati that is going to leave them with some questions about how they move forward for the time being in center. Will Benson is starting in center tonight out in Goodyear, and he has some experience in center. With Cleveland in 2022 he played 73 innings there, and he played 15 innings in center with the Reds in 2023. He has a lot more experience than that in center while playing in the minor leagues over his career – including in both 2022 and 2023 while he was in Triple-A.

The Reds could also look at Stuart Fairchild, who has played in 52 games as a center fielder in the big leagues. Like Benson, he’s got plenty of minor league experience at the position, too. The 28-year-old (today is his birthday!) has hit .474 and slugged 1.053 so far this spring, with five of his nine hits being for extra-bases so far in his 19 at-bats.

Nick Krall, the Reds President of Baseball Operations, wasn’t sure what the next move would be, exactly.

“We’ve had some internal discussions.” Krall said.  “Nothing concrete just yet. We’re going to have Will Benson play some center fielder, Stuart Fairchild’s going to play some center field. We’ll just have to figure out what the best options are.”

If for one reason or another the Reds don’t believe either of those guys can fill in well enough on defense, they may have to look to the guys in the minor leagues. Jacob Hurtubise is on the 40-man roster and has experience in center and is one of the fastest players in the organization. Last season he saw action in Double-A and Triple-A, was the team’s position player of the year in the farm system, and he hit .330/.479/.483 with 77 walks, 63 strikeouts, and 45 steals. Blake Dunn, the team’s player of the year in the minors in 2023, is not on the 40-man roster. He began 2023 in High-A Dayton, but moved up to Double-A after 47 games and crushed the ball for Chattanooga. Between the two stops he hit .312/.425/.522 with 23 home runs and 54 steals.

Both Dunn and Hurtubise were sent back to minor league camp earlier this month, but nothing prevents the Reds from bringing them back if they choose. The Reds probably want to get a look at Benson and Fairchild to see what they think with those two before going with one of the guys with no big league experience.

In a totally off the wall possibility, Matt McLain could be a guy the team puts out there. He played center as a freshman at UCLA, has plenty of speed, and in the short term would help ease the log jam that is the infield. Very unlikely, but it’s probably something that rattled around in at least one person’s head in the front office.

47 Responses

  1. Optimist

    Just for the position, and thinking there will be other changes elsewhere; Benson/Fairchild into May, Hurtubise called up for may, Dunn in June.

    Will change baed on Hurtubise’s first 100 PAs/Dunn’s first 200 PAs in AAA.

    Certainly bad news, but they have depth to extend such opportunities.

  2. AllTheHype

    I’d like to see Hurtubise get a shot. Bat him 9th, no pressure, probably gets on base a good bit for the top of the order.

    Fairchild would be a good choice too. See if his Spring bat helps hit take a step forward.

    Not sold on Benson in CF.

  3. tim

    could this be the best lineup going forward from opening day?

    India – dh
    Elly – ss
    Mcclain – 2nd
    Strand – 1st
    Candelario – 3rd
    Steer – lf
    benson/fraley – rf
    Stephenson – c
    Fairchild – cf

    • Alex Reds

      Looks good, but Candelario should be in 8th or 9th spot

      • Chris

        You think they brought Candelario here to bat 8th or 9th?

    • Chris

      Would never have Benson and Fraley splitting time while Fairchild plays everyday. Don’t be fooled by his spring. I’d take one of Hurtubise or Dunn in CF right now before I gave Fairchild everyday ab’s.

  4. RedsMonk65

    OUCH. Well crap. Injuries already taking their toll. Benson in CF is worth a look. Fairchild is a lock now, obviously, for roster. Glad depth was a priority this offseason.

  5. Mark Moore

    Well K.R.A.P.

    That’s the problem with an initial sprain diagnosis. It takes a while for the swelling to go down enough to get good pictures. Fractures hide from the initial looks, but it is what it is … 🙁

  6. Alex Reds

    Fairchild batting .409 this spring with a 1.318 OPS. Simple answer is Fairchild. However, now you need a backup CF. Benson really shouldn’t be in CF defensively. I’d roll with Fairchild, bring Hurtubise up as the next option. Start Hurtubise in AAA if at all possible to get him going and at bars. Wouldn’t be good for Hurtubise to sit on bench for a month. Give Hurtubise a major league debut closer to when Friedl comes back for a short stint.

    • oklared

      Sounds like basic training with the bars time

  7. Indy Red Man

    Stuey fan but I’m guessing he is what he is.
    Michael Taylor still out there? Benson just has so many bad reads that it might be a dumpster fire? What it might do is give Benson steady at-bats vs lefties too. I can’t imagine Steer and India in the OF at the same time

    • MBS

      I think Benson’s bad reads are the ball right at him. He should be able to get better reads in CF than in the corners.

      • Jim Walker

        From the corner OF spots, he tends to freeze on balls right at him and take poor routes into the gaps. For whatever reasons, he seems to recover more effectively and make better plays coming in than running down balls going past or over him.

    • Jeremiah

      Steer and India in the outfield at the same time I agree might be kind of entertaining to watch in a not great way! I think Winker and Castellanos in the same outfield was probably pretty bad defensively if I remember correctly too.

    • Jim Walker

      Yes, Stuey is who is; and, last year due to injury situations from May 21-June 19 he had a very good run, playing in 23 games (22 starts; 16 complete games) in which the team went 17-6. In 81PAs during that stretch, his OPS was .815

  8. GreatRedLegsFan

    FO addressed pitching halfway and decided to move forward without any outside help for the outfield. Can’t say any of the outfielders in the active roster is an everyday player: Benson and Fraley can’t hit LH, Fairchild is a 4th OF at best and Steer is yet to prove his skills in LF.

  9. Krozley

    Bubba Thompson is a possibility for some time in CF. He’s hit well so far in ST.

  10. MK

    Fraley can probably handle it in the short term in a platoon with Fairchild with Steer fulltime in left.

    • Mark Moore

      I’m thinking you forgot the agreed upon sARCasm FOnt … I’ve never read anything indicating Fraley would be even mediocre in CF.

      • Jeremiah

        I was trying to remember didn’t Fraley play CF a little last year? I think he’d be better than Benson in CF. Man I think Benson is not very good defensively honestly. I think he has potential to get better, but I think he could be a disaster in CF playing regularly. But Fraley in CF regularly probably not a great idea either of course.

      • MBS

        Fraley per games by OF position

        MLB LF 110, RF 84, CF 34

        MILB LF 69, RF 49, CF 124

  11. Rob

    In hindsight, maybe they let go of Barrero a little too soon.

  12. Oldtimer

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CIN/1962.shtml Gene Freese broke his ankle in ST 1962. Reds #1 prospect Tommy Harper made starting 3B but lasted only a week. Reds moved Kasko from SS to 3B and put Cardenas at SS. Reds traded perennial 3B star Cliff Cook to NYM for Don Zimmer (as back-up 3B). Cookie Rojas was back-up middle INF.

    Reds improved from 93 W in 191 to 98 W in 1962 but LAD and SFG improved even more.

    1B CES 2B McLain SS ELDC 3B Candelario UTIL India LF Steer CF Benson/Fairchild RF Fraley.

    • MK

      Tommy Harper wore #14 that season followed by Zimmer. That Sept. when Harper came back he was given 17. Without those changes Pete might never have gotten 14,

      • Oldtimer

        Yep. Bobby Klaus was #14 in ST 1963. Pete wore #27 until Opening Day 1963 when he wore #14.

  13. Jeremiah

    Man losing Friedl a blow! Also, that particular injury will he be able to come back this season and play well coming off a broken wrist? It’s one thing to lose him for a month or two, but my concern is will he be able to hit well when he does return to mostly 100%.

    That Jacob Hurtubise’s stats were incredible last year. I wonder if they’d allow him to compete for the starting CF or at least let him platoon with Fairchild. I don’t like the idea of Benon really in CF unless he’s really improved defensively. He seems to not take good reads on balls often. Maybe he’s gotten better though?

    One guy all these injuries and suspensions benefit is Jonathan India. Hopefully he takes advantage of this situation and revives his career a bit.

  14. RedsMonk65

    Whatever the case may be — let the games begin!

  15. Indy Red Man

    What were they originally planning to do with Benson and Fraley anyway? Steer and Freidl would be full-time OF right?

    I don’t know the guys from the minors or how ready they are so I’m thinking Steer LF, Fraley/Stuey CF platoon and Steer to RF when India plays in a Benson/India platoon. McLain & Candy not hitting anything and Marte long gone. The starters are getting beat up too. It went from almost an embarrassment of riches right back to our standard embarrassment in a heartbeat

  16. Redsvol

    Very disappointed that we have this big an injury before games even mean anything.

    Let’s not kid ourselves, Fractured wrist is an 8 week injury for a regular person and at lear 12 for an athlete that swings a bat. He might be able to play again in 12 weeks but With rehab and regain of strength we’re probably talking 16 weeks before he is himself. That puts him at about July 15 before he’s really contributing. Bad decision to dive for a ball in spring training. The loss of Friedl this long is a big deal.

  17. Klugo

    What I find interesting is that there is no talk of surgery right away. It’s gonna be an important 3-4 weeks.

  18. Jason Franklin

    Why not bring up Dunn who can play CF and has potential to do well?

  19. MK

    I think back to 1971, coming off an NL championship, the Reds lost CF Bobby Tolan to a torn Achilles tendon in an off-season, Reds sponsored team, basketball game. It really ruined the season although it did lead to the mid-season acquisition of George Foster from the Giants who played a lot of center that year. They also acquired Buddy Bradford from the White Sox to play there and Dave Concepcion even played there because just like now they had a lot of shortstops including Woody Woodward, Darrell Chaney and Frank Duffy who was later in the Foster trade. Duffy was well thought of and was traded by the Giants along with Gaylord Perry to the Indians for Sudden Sam McDowell.

    • Oldtimer

      Rose played (started) about 50 games in CF in 1971. Foster started most of the rest.

      The Foster trade was May 29, 1971. The Reds wanted Bernie Williams but SFG said No and offered Foster instead. Howsam was lucky.

    • Oldtimer

      Correction. Rose started 56 games in CF in 1969, not 1971.

  20. Jonathan Linn

    I want JD Martinez signed on Monday and move McLain to CF for the first 6 weeks of the season. India to 2nd base.

  21. Melvin

    “In a totally off the wall possibility, Matt McLain could be a guy the team puts out there.”

    In a totally WAY off the wall possibility, EDLC could be the guy. Wishful thinking on my part. Not likely since he’s never played there professionally (yet) that I know of. Most likely in my mind it’s Benson getting a chance to play most every day. He’s not the best outfielder in the world but remember Choo did it for an entire season. He’s just as good as that at least. There are STILL eight guys rotating in seven spots.

    India
    Steer
    Benson
    Fraley
    Candelario
    EDLC
    McLain
    CES

    We’ll be fine. Wishing Friedl a quick and complete recovery. As JB likes to say (which we haven’t heard from in a while) “He’s Legit”. 😀

  22. Jim Delaney

    This Injury opens up a second spot to allow both Martini and Ford to make Reds opening day roster. I expect Ford will get a lot of at bats vs RH pitching at DH/1B. He has power that Reds lineup needs. Martini is a good PH and a solid defensive OF who will go in games in 8th/9th inning in LF or RF….

    • Jim Walker

      Nick Martini is Jake Fraley without the good fortune of having landed in an organization all in for handedness platooning when he was 27 years old. Or, at least that seems to be what the metrics say.

      At age 34, Martini has just less than half of the MLB PAs as Fraley does at 30 years of age, 412/962, and an overall OPS of .774 vs .748 for Fraley. Versus RHP, the MLB career OPS breakdown is .828 for Martini and .805 for Fraley. Versus LHP, Martini is even worse than Fraley in OPS .378/.482. Maybe this difference is why a team, the Reds, was willing to work around Fraley’s weakness at age 27 to exploit his strength while at a similar age, Martini was consigned to the minor league role of organizational depth?

  23. doofus

    “but’s probably something that rattled around in at least one person’s head in the front office.” Love it!

  24. CI3J

    As other posters have alluded to, even if Friedl is able to come back in May or June, it’s highly likely he won’t be anywhere near as good of a hitter as he was.

    Fractured wrists tend to leave the wrist weak even after they fully heal, and Friedl may not fully recover until later in the season.

    Really, really bad luck.

  25. Phil

    Fangraphs ran an article back in December “Where are the Giants going to play all of these outfielders?”

    Austin Slater has been a part-time player (never more than 325 PAs) for San Francisco over the past 7 seasons. He’s played all 3 outfield spots, been successful as a pinch-hitter and can hit left-handed pitching. He’s only being paid $4-million on a 1-year contract and is 31 years old.

    With Benson and Fraley struggling against lefties and not much depth at center-field I thought he would be a good trade target even before the Friedl injury. Now with Friedl out for an extended period of time I think he would be a great addition that would likely not require a big return in a trade.