GOODYEAR, Ariz. —For Jesse Winker, the 2020 season felt like a step in the right direction. For the first time in his four seasons in the big leagues, the Cincinnati Reds finished with a winning record and reached the playoffs.
Winker started both games in the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves and went 1-for-6 with a walk. The Reds failed to score a run, falling well short of their ultimate goal, something that has eluded the franchise since 1990.
“Until we accomplish our goal of bringing home a ring, everything besides that just kind of feels short,” Winker said.
Winker hit .255 with 12 home runs and 23 RBIs in 54 games. He started 35 games at designated hitter, 12 games in left field and one in right. The designated hitter will not return to the National League in 2021, and Winker is ready return to an every-day role in the outfield. In 2019, the last full season, he played all three outfield positions but spent the majority of his time in left.
“I always prepare to play the outfield because — I don’t mean this disrespectfully — I’m an outfielder not a DH,” Winker said. “Every offseason I prepared to play the outfield. I prepared to play left, center and right. I had a great offseason.”
Winker missed the final two months of the 2018 season after dislocating his shoulder. He did not play after Aug. 18 in 2019 because of a cervical strain. Last season, he stayed healthy, and he remained so in the offseason.
“I kind of just hit the ground running,” Winker said. “There were no setbacks to worry about. There was no waiting for a certain time to get to work. It’s probably the best offseason I’ve had. I had some really really cool moments throughout the offseason, so I’m excited.”
Winker, 27, was the a first-round pick (49th overall) in 2012. He debuted in 2017 with the Reds, appearing in 47 games. He hit a career-high 16 home runs in 2019 and improved his power numbers significantly in 2020, albeit in a shortened season. His .544 slugging percentage was his career best.
“I learned a lot about myself last year when it comes to hitting,” Winker said. “I made some adjustments. I feel like every year I come back, and we talk about some some things I learned hitting wise. This is the team that drafted me in 2012. This is all I know when it comes to professional baseball, and this is a very special place to me. I love the city of Cincinnati, and every year when I get to come to Goodyear for spring training it it fires me up.”