Joey Votto went 0 for 21 with just a lone walk in his final five games of the 2022 season. He posted just a .603 OPS in the 33 games he played after July 1st, and only a meager .482 OPS in the 14 games he played after August 1st. Shoulder and biceps injuries shut him down early, and while all signs point to the surgeries to correct those injuries having gone well, we just simply haven’t seen Joey Votto in entirely too long. And, as pointed out above, he wasn’t even Joey Votto the last time we did see him.
Given that 2023 marks the final guaranteed year on Votto’s contract, given the frugality that is the Cincinnati Reds franchise, and given that he’ll turn 40 years old in September, there’s a natural urge to see Votto return as early as possible. A selfish urge, yet an urge nonetheless. We want to see as much of him as we can before it’s too late, and it’s pretty clear he’s got the same state of mind on the opposite end, too.
Still, it’s paramount that he comes back healthy, and not just to get ovations and scratch and claw at every possible record. That’s the message he relayed to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon earlier this week in an update on his status, with the idea of being ready for Opening Day the launching point of the conversation.
Votto’s answer to said concept? Not one, really - rather, he reiterated that he’s working his butt off to make sure that when he’s back, he’s back, and that means back for all the dives, twists, and awkward moments that will inevitably happen beyond the most basic ranges of motion.
That’s prudent, and were it any other year of his career, we wouldn’t even think twice about waiting until he’s 100% to even fathom what the lineup would look like with him in it. It’s just a bummer that he’s going through this at precisely the same time that the clock inches closer to midnight on his Reds career, though I do suppose the inevitability of Father Time does tend to have that impact on all of us.
Anyway, it was enough for Sheldon to pull Votto’s name off his second attempt at predicting the team’s Opening Day roster, something that I’d chalked up on my first attempt a couple of weeks back, too. The biggest question perhaps facing the Reds now is not whether Wil Myers will slide into the infield from RF to take his place every day, but rather if Christian Encarnacion-Strand is going to mash his way right into the everyday 1B role from the get-go.
My lord, does the ball ever explode off his bat.
In other news, MLB Pipeline revised their Top 30 lists for all teams within the last week, and here’s the updated list for the Reds. No true surprises here, aside from perhaps Joe Boyle falling completely off the list altogether. The dude has always walked guys and that never kept him off their lists prior to this update, and he’s fresh off a season in which he fanned 153 in just 100.2 IP while owning a 2.86 ERA to boot.
The Atlanta Braves made their first round of cuts from camp yesterday, which is a reminder that it’s just about time for the Reds to do the same. Of course, the Reds are in a much more thoroughly exploratative portion of their existence at the moment than Atlanta, so there’s a chance they keep guys around a little bit longer as they try desperately to figure out just what they have.
Finally, MLB is prepping to potentially broadcast the games of up to 17 teams this season in the wake of the collapse of regional sports networks who previously did the deed. The Cincinnati Reds are one of those teams, with the future of Bally Sports a dark one, meaning the way in which we consume Reds baseball this year is destined to be very different than in years before. It’s also still in a nebulous state, too, so keep your eyes out for further developments there going forward.