Jesse Winker: For Reds, ‘it’s just time to win’

Fourth-year outfielder willing to be DH if needed

Jesse Winker knows what to expect in stadiums with no fans. He remembers playing in showcases in high school and hearing only the sounds of scouts clicking their pens to take notes. It’s a similar scene at some spring training games.

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The Cincinnati Reds outfielder doesn’t need the normal sounds of Great American Ball Park to focus, and he would prefer the Reds don’t play fake crowd noise, which some teams have considered doing this season.

As much as all the players would rather have fans in the stands, there’s a silver lining for outfielders.

“What’s actually really cool is you can hear the sound of the ball off the bat,” Winker said, “and that’s something that’s great. As an outfielder, it’s awesome. When the crowd’s really loud and the guy hits a ball, you have to kind of go on feel and how the swing looks. I don’t want to say you’re guessing, but at times when it’s really loud, you are, right? So there’s going to be none of that.”

In an intrasquad scrimmage Thursday, Winker hit a two-run home run against Sonny Gray, who was named the Opening Day starter Wednesday. The only sounds were the ball hitting the bat, the ball landing somewhere beyond the fence and Winker shouting in excitement as he rounded the bases. He jumped in the air and acted as if he were shooting a basketball after he rounded third base.

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The quiet in Great American Ball Park did not bother Winker.

“Once the game started, it was kind just competing and having fun,” Winker said. “We’re back out there playing ball. It kind of just felt right.”

Winker, 26, is entering his fourth season in the big leagues. His average fell from .299 in 2018 to .269 in 2019. He hit 16 home runs and drove in 38 runs, spending the majority of his time in left field but also playing right field or center.

Manager David Bell expects most of the designated hitter at-bats to go to outfielders, and Winker will be candidate to see time there.

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“I just want to see my name in the lineup,” Winker said. “That’s it. If that’s with a DH next to it at seven, eight or nine, I’m going to do my job. I’m just here to win. That’s it. If that means DH, if that means playing the outfield, if that means pinch-hitting in the seventh, eighth or ninth, whatever is called for me on a given day, I’ll be ready for it. Obviously with the short season everything is kind of out the window personally. It’s just time to win, and I think it’ll be a special World Series to win, if we’re given opportunity to be there late in the year.”

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