GOODYEAR, Ariz. – A little more than two years after the Cincinnati Reds introduced the Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama with great fanfare at a press conference, Akiyamas time with the organization probably over.
Akiyama was informed on Sunday morning that he will not be on the Reds’ opening day list. He owes $ 8 million this year and the Reds cannot send him to the minor leagues without his consent. If Akiyama does not want to play at Triple-A Louisville, he will be nominated for the award on Thursday, creating a way for him to become a free agent.
“We felt we had better opportunities in the outfield,” said Reds general manager Nick Krall. “We like the guys who have played out there with (Jake) Fraley, (Tyler) Naquin and just felt like another left-handed player was superfluous.”
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When the Reds signed Akiyama to a three-year, $ 21 million contract ahead of the 2020 season, they envisioned a lead-off hitter with an above-average defense. He was a Gold Glove finalist in left field in 2020 and helped the Reds end a seven-year playoff drought when he hit .318 in the final month of the regular season in 2020, but he never looked to adapt completely to Major League pitching.
Akiyama, who turns 34 on April 16, said he was not surprised by the Reds’ decision, saying “results are everything.” He had a good idea of what his next plan was, but he did not want to announce it Sunday morning.
“With two years, it’s the results that are out there,” Akiyama said through interpreter Luke Shinoda. “But realistically, I can still play. I can play hard. I know I can play. So I just have to get on with this situation.”
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Akiyama never had a normal spring training. The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted his first spring training. He left camp last year for a week when his wife was injured in a park and then he tensed his buttocks. Then there was the 99-day lockout in the spring.
“It’s not like the pandemic only happened to me,” Akiyama said. “It was out of my control. It’s clear that last year it was me who got hurt, so I can not complain about that at all.”
Akiyama started just 32 games last season after returning from a hamstring injury when he fell into a fifth outfielder role and he turned down the Reds’ request to play in the minor leagues. In two seasons, he had a batting average of .224 and a .320 on-base percentage without a homer in 317 strokes.
“We talked to his representatives at the end of last year about going to Triple-A to get some slaughterhouse because of where he was in the outfield pecking order,” Krall said, “and they did not have the big one. interest.”
Akiyama, the first Japanese-born player in Red’s history, was well-liked in the clubhouse for his outgoing and humorous personality.
The Reds made a “27 outs” exercise on Thursday, where players must perform 27 consecutive defensive games without error, otherwise the counter would return to zero and they would start over. Akiyama got the last ball hit for him in midfield and he threw a minor league runner out on the plate and earned loud cheers from his teammates as they finished the exercise.
When Akiyama was asked about his favorite moment on the field with the Reds, he thought back to his first Major League hit, an RBI single during a 2020 Opening Day victory.
“I know there were no fans there but getting the first hit, the first RBI,” said Akiyama, who was a five-time All-Star in Japan and set a single season record for hits. “All my teammates, I felt like I was welcome in that dugout, and I felt like I was part of that team family. Also, the press conference when I joined the team, I remember that well. It’s just unfortunate. “I do not. have so many memorable moments.”
In addition to Akiyama, the red catcher Andrew Knapp and the injured reliever Trey Wingenter cut from the camp in the big league. Aramis Garcia will open the season as the backup catcher behind Tyler Stephenson if the Reds do not add another catcher this week.
Wingenter was shut down due to elbow soreness, but an MRI scan turned out fine. He declined to use an opt-out clause in his contract and will remain in the organization while retraining in Arizona. Knapp, who spent the last five seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, has an opt-out clause he uses Monday.