After missing the past four games due to an illness, Reds left fielder Jesse Winker was back atop the lineup for Friday’s road tilt with the D-backs.

Winker said that he had been sick since Saturday with “the regular flu,” and he admitted it still took a toll on him physically for a few days. Winker’s brother and mother were in town at the time, and along with pumping fluids through his body, Winker’s mom made a pot of chicken noodle soup to help him recover.

“I believe sunlight and chicken noodle soup can solve a lot of problems. So I was lucky for that, thankful for that,” Winker said.

Winker said that he was allowed to come back to the team Tuesday after being symptom-free for 36 hours, and he was able to get some baseball activity in Wednesday. In the meantime, he got to see the rest of his teammates explode for record-setting offensive performances. The Reds have 57 runs scored through six games after Cincinnati’s 11-4 win over the Pirates on Wednesday, setting the franchise record. It’s also the most league-wide since the Indians scored 58 through six games in 1999.

The Reds also became the fourth team in MLB history to have two players — right fielder Nick Castellanos and Winker’s replacement in the lineup, Tyler Naquin — with at least four home runs in the first six games. Rookie second baseman Jonathan India leads the team with a .476 batting average, while Castellanos (.435) and third baseman Mike Moustakas (.412) are also hitting above .400.

Though Winker had to watch a lot of the show from his couch, he was excited to see what his team was doing. Now he’s ready to help keep things rolling.

“Selfishly, you want to play in every game. But watching from home, watching everybody do their thing and win ball games and hit homers and drive in runs, it was incredible to watch everyone do it,” Winker said. “It was great.”

Gray on the way back
Hampered by a muscle strain in his back during Spring Training, Reds pitcher Sonny Gray is now gearing up for a return to the rotation.

Gray threw 60 pitches over 4 2/3 innings without issue in a scrimmage at the alternate training site in Louisville, followed by a side session Wednesday. The two-time All-Star made just one “A” game appearance during Spring Training, throwing two innings against the Royals on March 4, before he began the regular season on the 10-day injured list.

Reds manager David Bell revealed Friday that Gray is closing in on his return date. Bell said that Gray will throw a simulated game Saturday, with the hope being that he will then rejoin the rotation during the club’s next homestand beginning April 16 — and possibly even sooner.

“There may be a chance we’d be able to use him on this road trip, but we’ll see,” Bell said. “We’ll have to see how it goes tomorrow. All signs are pointing that he’s healthy and ready to go.”

Quick hitters
• Newly acquired catcher Beau Taylor was one of five players that the Reds included on their taxi squad for the road trip to Arizona and San Francisco, along with outfielder Mark Payton, infielder Max Schrock and pitchers Art Warren and Heath Hembree. Taylor was designated for assignment by Cleveland on March 27 before being claimed off waivers by Cincinnati last Saturday.

Taylor’s father grew up a Reds fan while watching players such as Johnny Bench and Pete Rose, and Taylor said that his dad was more excited to find out Taylor was going to Cincinnati than he was the day that Taylor was drafted.

“He went out right away and bought a Reds hat, and he’s like, ‘This feels like home,’” Taylor said.

• The D-backs planned to honor the late Mike Bell — the brother of David Bell and the son of Reds vice president and senior advisor Buddy Bell — on Friday as part of their Opening Night ceremony. Bell died of cancer during Spring Training. He spent 13 years in the D-backs’ player development department before becoming the Twins bench coach last season.