The Reds announced a host of roster changes ahead of their series against the Blue Jays. first baseman Joey Votto was reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list. outfielder Aristides of Aquinascorrect Graham Ashcraft and utility Taylor Motter have all been selected for the majors as designated COVID “substitutes”.
Cincinnati has placed four players — Tyler Mahle, Albert Almora Jr., Joel Kuhnel and Brandon Dry — on the shortlist. This is standard procedure for players who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 and are playing on teams traveling to Toronto. The Canadian government prohibits unvaccinated players from entering the country, so this foursome will not be available for this weekend’s series.
Votto returns after missing more than two weeks due to virus issues. The six-time All-Star began experiencing symptoms of COVID in the first week of May, and he eventually missed enough time for the organization to send him on a brief minor league rehab assignment. After a pair of appearances with Triple-A Louisville, the Toronto native returns for a set against his hometown club. He will look to right the ship offensively after free time; Votto opened the season in a terrible fall of .122/.278/.135 in 22 games.
Aquino, Motter and Ashcraft all occupy temporary spots on the roster. The fact that the club clarified they were COVID substitutes suggests it will likely be a brief stint for all three. Players whose contracts are selected with this designation can be removed from the 40-man roster and returned to minors without going through waivers when the team returns to full strength. In the Reds’ case, it will be after this series, so each of Aquino, Motter and Ashcraft are likely only in place for three days.
Right-hander Aquino opened the year in the majors but got off to a terrible start. He was dropped outright from the roster earlier this month, but he’s tattooed as a Triple-A pitcher (.314/.405/.743 with four homers) in ten games. Motter signed a minor league contract last month. The right-hitting utility hits .245/.344/.566 with Louisville and offers multi-position depth in place of Drury.
While this represents a brief stint for Ashcraft, the 24-year-old will likely play a notable role on the roster before too long. UAB’s 2019 sixth-round pick, the 6’2″ pitcher has quickly become one of the best arms in the farm system. Ashcraft split last season between High-A Dayton and Double-A Chattanooga, posting an even 3.00 ERA in 111 innings. He spent that year with Louisville, working to a 1.65 ERA over seven starts, but not many strikeouts or walks.
Baseball America recently ranked Ashcraft 12th among prospects in the Cincinnati organization, praising a mid-’90s cut fastball that serves as his primary offer. BA and FanGraphs – who ranked it No. 17 in the system – suggest Ashcraft’s below-average change and inconsistent control point to a long-term future, but it’s remained a starter so far as what pro. Ashcraft will need to be added to the 40-man roster next offseason to prevent him from being selected in the Rule 5 draft, and potential trades by the last-place Reds could open up an extended opportunity for him later this summer.
Cincinnati also announced that the shortstop Jose Barrero will begin a rehab mission with the Bats. An expected regular shortstop at the club, he hasn’t played this season after suffering a hook injury during spring training. Position players can spend up to 20 days on rehab assignments, suggesting Barrero should make his 2022 debut within the next three weeks assuming all goes well in the minors.