Jesse Winker became the 18,942nd player in Major League Baseball history when he debuted in April 2017. Alex Blandino was the 19,201st when he debuted April 10. Believe it or not, Baseball-Reference.com keeps track of numbers like that.
The two Cincinnati Reds rookies are part of a big crowd when it comes to 100-plus years of baseball history, but getting to the big league remains a rare feat. Staying there is even tougher. Winker appears destined to be a Red for years to come, while Blandino did enough in the first month to earn a longer audition.
Blandino had one hit in his first 17 at-bats. He was hitting .059 on April 18, an average that mirrored the team’s results. Still, he remained positive with the help of his teammates and is now hitting .234.
“This is a great clubhouse full of guys who want to see you succeed,” Blandino said. “The energy’s great in here. Everybody’s very positive and helpful.”
Blandino raised his average to .256 with a seven-game hitting streak before going 0-for-4 Monday in a 6-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park. He praised third baseman Eugenio Suarez for keeping his spirits up during the first month.
Blandino said Suarez told him, “Hey, man, don’t press. They didn’t call you up as a favor. You’re here because you belong. You’re here because you can play. So play with confidence, and just know the results will take care of themselves.”
While Winker played in 47 games last season and proved himself capable, hitting .298, he still has rookie status. Winker leads the Reds with a .414 on-base percentage. He has reached base in his last 16 appearances. He’s hitting .305 with seven doubles and nine RBIs.
“It’s kind of what I wanted and what I expected to do,” Winker said, “but you just kind of keep going. I’ve said this from the beginning: it’s a really good lineup behind me. Leading off, they make it easy for me. With Joey (Votto) in the three spot, you’re going to see a lot of good pitches to hit, so I try to be a tough out.”
Winker batted in the lead-off spot Monday for the sixth time in seven games and went 2-for-5 with a double. He doesn’t care where he hits in the lineup.
“As long as I’ve got a bat in my hand, I feel pretty good about the situation,” Winker said. “I feel like as a hitter, being able to hit in any spot in the lineup gives (Jim) Riggleman some flexibility. I never put much weight on where I’m at in the lineup.”
With another strong performance by the offense in the series opener against the Brewers, the Reds moved into 20th place in runs scored in baseball. They have scored 56 runs in the last eight games after scoring 61 runs in the first 21 games.
“I think everyone knows we can really swing the bat,” Winker said. “It was only a matter of time. It’s a long year, and everyone is going to go through some good times and bad times, hot and cold streaks. That’s just a part of it. Unfortunately, we started kind of all-time cold, but we’ve collectively picked it up and it’s been a lot of fun.”