5 things to know about Cincinnati Reds, Opening Day

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

India, Stephenson two familiar names in revamped lineup

Outfielder Will Benson worked his way up to the big leagues in 2022 after six seasons in the minors in the Cleveland Indians organization. He saw action in 28 games last season and then was traded in February to the Cincinnati Reds for minor league outfielder Justin Boyd and pitcher Steve Hajjar.

Benson made his debut on Aug. 1 last season. He has never been on a big-league roster on Opening Day. That will change Thursday. He hit .327 (16 for 49) in the spring and made the Reds roster.

“It’s a blessing,” Benson told reporters in Cincinnati on Monday. “I want to thank God first and foremost, just because I’m coming to a new team, and I usually struggle with transitions. I was thankful for the opportunity, thankful for the challenge, so to come in and play at the level that I played and make the roster is pretty cool. It’s an opportunity to provide for my family, and that’s what’s most important.”

Benson is one of the new faces fans will get to know starting Thursday as the Reds play the Pittsburgh Pirates on Opening Day in Cincinnati. Here are five other things to know about Opening Day and the 2023 Reds:

1. The Reds could have a new starting shortstop in the opener for the seventh straight year: Jose Barrero won the starting job in the spring by hitting .311 (14 for 45). Assuming he starts the opener, he will follow Kyle Farmer (2022), Eugenio Suarez (2021), Freddy Galvis (2020), Jose Iglesias (2019), Jose Peraza (2018) and Zack Cozart (2017) as shortstops who have started on Opening Day in recent years.

Barrero, 24, hit .152 in 48 games last season. He has appeared in 93 games over the last three seasons and hit .170.

2. Only two players who started Opening Day last year are likely to be in the lineup Thursday: Catcher Tyler Stephenson should make his second straight Opening Day start, while Jonathan India will be in the lineup for the third straight Opening Day.

Joey Votto’s streak of 14 straight Opening Day starts will end as he begins the season on the injured list. Nick Senzel, who started Opening Day the last three seasons, is also expected to start the season on the injured list.

The other starters from the 2022 opener are no longer with the team: Aristides Aquino; Tommy Pham; Mike Moustakas; Kyle Farmer; Brandon Drury; and Tyler Mahle.

3. A recent trend points to a Reds victory on Thursday: Starting in 2011, the Reds have alternated winning their home opener in two straight years and then losing it for two straight years. Here’s how that streak looks: W-W-L-L-W-W-L-L-W-W-L-L. If that continues, the Reds will win on Opening Day in 2023 and 2024.

This is the first time the Reds and Pirates have played on Opening Day since 2019 when the Reds won 5-3.

4. The game is sold out: The Reds announced Wednesday the game is official sold out, though a limited number of tickets are available on ticket exchange and resale sites. The Reds had a crowd of 43,036 at their home opener last season, though that was the fifth game of the season because they opened the season in Atlanta. The crowd numbered 44,049 in 2019, the last year before the pandemic.

5. There’s nowhere to go but up: The last four big-league teams to lose 100 games all improved the following year.

From 2021 to 2022, the Texas Rangers improved from 60-102 to 68-94 in 2022, the Baltimore Orioles improved from 52-110 to 83-79, the Arizona Diamondbacks improved from 52-110 to 74-88 and the Pittsburgh Pirates improved from 61-101 to 62-100.

After the only other 100-loss season for the Reds (61-101 in 1982), they improved to 74-88 the following season.

“I feel like it’s been a very big focal point for a lot of us in the aspect of not proving everybody wrong but more proving ourselves right,” outfielder Jake Fraley said. “I like that statement better because for us it’s staying in house. It’s not worrying about anybody else’s expectations. It’s about what we can do today. It’s about focusing on what’s in our way over the next 24 hours.”

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