Senzel passes latest test in Bats' romp

Top Reds prospect logs four hits in first game as leadoff batter

Entering Saturday's game, Nick Senzel hit .322 in 143 leadoff at-bats in the Minor Leagues. (Ken Inness/MiLB.com)

By Gerard Gilberto / MiLB.com | June 9, 2018 11:43 PM

While the Reds continue to experiment with top prospect Nick Senzel at different defensive positions, their latest idea of slotting him at the top of Triple-A Louisville's lineup is already yielding great results.

MLB.com's No. 5 overall prospect doubled in his first four-hit game in the International League as the Bats rolled past Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 9-4, on Saturday night at PNC Field. Senzel also drove in a run and scored twice while raising his batting average to .276.

"[I was] just sticking to the same plan I've continued to have," he said. "Just trying to get a pitch I can hit and if I don't, take the free pass. Be aggressive when I feel like I need to be, just making sure I'm not getting frustrated."

It was his fifth career four-hit performance and first since July 28, when he fell a double shy of the cycle for Double-A Pensacola. Louisville totaled 20 hits, its most since since a 16-5 win over Columbus on April 20, 2016.

"I feel good. It was good to see some of those fall tonight, I was happy with it," Senzel said. "I was happy with the team performance as well, it was great."

The effort came during his first professional contest hitting in the No. 1 hole. He's played the majority of his professional career in the No. 3 spot in the lineup, which brought about a level of shock when he walked past the dugout and saw his name at the top of the card.

"There was no conversation, honestly, I was surprised I was there," Senzel said. "I saw I was leading off, so I kind of just saw it and ran with it."


Gameday box score


Senzel's rise to the top of the order can be illustrated by his impressive numbers as an innings-starter. The Atlanta native had 41 hits in 117 leadoff at-bats before this season, good for a .350 average. He got hits in exactly half of his 40 leadoff at-bats for Class A Dayton in 2016 but was only 5-for-25 in that same situation this year.

"I just think I tend to be aggressive and, if not, I try to just get a pitch I can handle," he said. "I enjoyed leading off tonight. I'm sure I'll be there a little bit more often now, but it was fun."

The 22-year-old spent most of May on the disabled list while battling vertigo, the second time in less than a year that dizzy spells forced him out of the lineup. He returned on May 29 and, including his 4-for-6 effort against the RailRiders, is 12-for-42 (.286) over 11 games since.

"I feel like, since coming back, I've been hitting the ball good, taking some good at-bats. Some stuff's not falling here and there, I just try not to get frustrated," Senzel said. 

He was batting .271 with an .810 OPS, eight extra-base hits and seven RBIs in his first 22 games before getting shut down.

"Before I went on the DL, I was swinging it good, too. But it was just one of those things where I had to shut it down," he said. "I knew it was coming. It had been there for a little and I had to get it taken care of.

"I feel good [now]. ... I feel a lot better about the treatment plan this time around and the way it was handled, so I'm happy about it and I'm happy to be back."

Senzel said that his road back included various testing to diagnose vertigo before beginning treatment. He said that suffered from the typical effects of the ailment -- light-headedness, dizziness, vision issues -- and began vestibular rehabilitation therapy, which is designed to improve the body's natural balance. He said that the main goal of the layoff was to learn how to best handle any future bouts with vertigo and minimize recovery time.

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"I know the organization doesn't want to see me out on the DL and I, for sure, don't want to be on the DL," he said. "This was just making me feel off. ... Just very frustrating, but there's nothing I can do but attack it and get some answers and get the proper plan in place to keep attacking it and make sure I'm doing my therapy every day."

The 2016 first-round pick started Saturday's game by smacking Josh Rogers' 0-2 pitch into center field for a base hit, stealing second and scoring on Gabriel Guerrero's single. He singled on the ground again in the second, but third baseman Brandon Drury kept it in the infield.

Senzel jumped on the first pitch from the RailRiders' left-hander in the fourth, lacing a single through the left side. He was retired for the first time in the fifth, going down swinging against Raynel Espinal, and made hard contact in the seventh that resulted in a flyout to left. With a runner in scoring position in the ninth, the University of Tennessee product drilled a liner to right for an RBI double, later scoring on Dilson Herrera's knock.

Guerrero also added a homer, two RBIs and a pair of runs scored to his second four-hit game of the season. Herrera collected three hits and Phillip Ervin doubled and singled while scoring twice and driving in a run. 

Gerard Gilberto is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @GerardGilberto4. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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