The Cincinnati Reds are finally getting healthy after a rash of Spring Training injuries and offseason surgeries left the team with a Plan B roster to start the season. One of the pieces the Reds were relying on to reclaim the NL Central was Skip Schumaker, who injured his shoulder in Spring Training and is just now rehabbing at triple-A Louisville.
The Reds inked Schumaker to a two-year, $4.5-million deal with an important backup role in mind: left-handed pinch-hitter and defensive replacement in the outfield and second base. His career .285 batting average and .344 on-base percentage, combined with his defensive versatility, make Schumaker a no-brainer to rejoin the team as soon as his rehab is finished.
Who Schumaker will replace on the Reds’ 25-man roster is a different issue. There’s no doubt that the odd man out should be veteran backup outfielder Roger Bernadina.
As a 29-year-old with a career .238 average, the left-handed hitting Bernadina was a stopgap out of Spring Training until Schumaker returned, but his presence on the roster has meant that another left-handed hitting outfielder — Donald Lutz — did not get the chance to join the Reds like he did last year when injuries hit the Reds’ outfield hard.
Despite the obvious, the Reds still may opt to keep Bernadina on the roster, which would be a mistake. The other position player most likely to be considered for re-assignment is backup corner infielder Neftali Soto, who can also serve as the emergency third catcher if needed.
The Reds may need Soto’s backstop versatility until starting catcher Devin Mesoraco returns from the DL. That’s all the more reason to let Bernadina toil in Louisville or try his luck with another organization.