CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds apparently will operate with as many interchangeable parts as a complicated machine this season.
They hope it resembles a Big Red Machine.
In their 7-1 Opening Day triumph over Detroit on Friday, manager David Bell started right-handed-hitting Phil Ervin in left field over freshly signed Japanese free agent Shogo Akiyama against Tigers southpaw Matthew Boyd. Also in the lineup at designated hitter was right-handed Matt Davidson, who had a history of success against American League Central teams when he played for the Chicago White Sox.
Ervin and Davidson each went 0 for 2 and both exited the game when Detroit brought in right-handed reliever Jose Cisnero in the sixth inning. Akiyama took Ervin’s spot atop the order and in left field, going 1 for 2 with a run batted in. Jesse Winker replaced Davidson and went 0 for 2.
The specialization didn’t stop there, as Bell used his 30-man roster to his advantage, pinch-running for Nick Castallanos with speedster Travis Jankowski in the seventh. Jankowski promptly stole second, then scored on a home run by Mike Moustakas.
The Reds’ free agent spending spree on Castellanos, Moustakas and Akiyama was designed not just to add thump to the league’s third-worst offense, but to provide versatility. Moustakas is the starting second baseman, but can play third or DH. Castellanos is comfortable in either corner outfield sport or at DH. Akiyama can play any of the outfield positions, but thrives in left and center.
Ervin can play anywhere in the outfield, as can center fielders Nick Senzel, who also can play second, third or, in a pinch, shortstop. Kyle Farmer is the No. 3 catcher, but also adept at any infield spot or left field. Bell can pencil in Winker in left, first base or DH.
Even at catcher, the Reds feature two options, as Tucker Barnhart is a switch hitter and Curt Casali, who started Friday, hits from the right side.
With such flexibility, Bell hopes to neutralize opponents’ pitching changes, as well as prevent regulars from falling into lengthy slumps and keep players fresh.
KALINE HONORED: The Tigers will wear a “6” on their uniform this season in honor of Hall of Fame outfielder Al Kaline.
Kaline, 86, died in April.
STAYING LATE: Castellanos, known more for his potent bat than his glove, took fly balls from outfield coach Jeff Pickler for nearly one hour after Friday’s game.
The former third baseman said he prefers playing the outfield to DHing and wants to improve his defense to remain a regular in the field.
DAVIDSON SHELVED: Davidson was placed on the 10-day injured list Saturday after testing positive for COVID-19.
Davidson was in the starting lineup at designated hitter Friday and went 0 for 2.