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We tease him a lot 'cuz we've got him on the 3-spot.

Joey Votto has still not played for the Reds since July 16. That makes it seven weeks to the day since he went down. That's three weeks longer than the outside estimate given shortly after he was DL'd - but only 1 week later than the six week estimate I made up based on Baseball Prospectus' injury data and the nature of his surgery.

From all appearances, the Reds are playing it safe with Votto, rather than goading him back. He played in his 5th minor league game today (his second with the Louisville Bats). Joey is healthy enough to play baseball, though perhaps not healthy enough to play every day without pain or run full bore on the basepaths.

Now that Votto figures to be re-installed into the starting lineup in a matter of days, what will that mean for the Reds' offense?

Entering today's game, the Reds' offense had hit around its 2012 average line (.257/.319/.428) over the last two weeks. Over the season as a whole, they were also tied for 5th in the NL in runs-scored-per-game

But the bats have struggled against two rookie starters in a row, in games that have seen Stubbs and Cozart go 1-16 (with 2 BB). The hope is that Joey Votto will give the Reds that extra spark that will keep them from occasionally breaking down at the hands of very good pitchers or pitchers they haven't seen before.

If Votto has his baseball legs back under him, he'll undoubtedly improve the team. But he can give the Reds a bigger edge if Dusty doesn't just swap him in for Todd Frazier and leave it at that.

To date, Todd Frazier has arguably been the 2nd-most valuable player on the team and no worse than the 3rd most valuable hitter. Bringing back Votto at full strength improves 1st base and probably makes 3rd base a little bit better (calling Frazier or Ludwick in LF a wash), but benching Frazier for more than a game or two a week undercuts that.

Based on Dusty's lineup to start the season, this is what we might see:


Phillips 2B
Cozart SS
Votto 1B
Ludwick LF
Bruce RF
Rolen/Frazier 3B
Stubbs CF
Hanigan C

That's a good lineup. It's an improvement for a team that's already a good bet to win at least 95 games. But there might be a little playoff edge to dig out, however small.

Scott Rolen and Todd Frazier both hit lefties well historically. Ludwick has hit them extremely well this season. But, for whatever reason, Rolen has struggled mightily against them in 2012. As a play for some kind of advantage, I'd give Frazier most of his starts against righties. Frazier could also spell Votto against lefties.

Meanwhile, Drew Stubbs still will probably never hit righties. There are some games against RHP where you want Drew Stubbs playing behind a fly ball pitcher and/or in a big outfield. But I'd give Heisey most of the starts in CF against righties from here on out.

That would give us the following, which should let Frazier play 4-5 days a week. It's not the best, but maybe the best we could expect given some of the immutable laws of Baker:

vs. RHPs

Phillips 2B
Frazier (alt: Rolen) 3B
Votto 1B (alt: Frazier)
Bruce RF
Ludwick LF
Heisey CF
Cozart SS
Hanigan C

vs. LHPs

Phillips 2B
Stubbs CF
Votto 1B (alt: Frazier)
Ludwick LF
Bruce RF
Rolen 3B (alt: Frazier)
Cozart SS
Hanigan C

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