Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto has taken over 7,700 MLB at-bats, and the 15-year veteran said he only remembered being hit in the thumb once before Wednesday’s game against the Chicago White Sox.
Votto checked his swing in the fourth inning on Wednesday off a change-up by Dallas Keuchel, and an 80-mph pitch hit Votto’s thumb. Votto fractured his left thumb on the 61st hit-by-pitch of his career, and Votto is expected to miss three or four weeks.
“I'm surprised it took this long, to be honest with you,” Votto said. “I think I have 10,000 professional plate appearances in that range, so ... yeah. It's part of the game. It's totally part of the game.”
Votto was hit in the thumb in the fourth inning, and he ran the bases and played the field in the top of the fifth inning.
Then Reds Manager David Bell pulled Votto from the game in the top of the sixth inning for utility player Kyle Farmer. After the game, Votto was wearing a small brace over his left thumb.
“I knew I was in pain,” Votto said. “I thought I was being a baby. I just wanted to stay in the game, but I didn't think I could grip the bat and I was having a hard time putting my glove on. I could run and I was moving well and I thought, 'just give it some time, it should shake at some point … It broke, what are you going to do?”
While Farmer replaced Votto in the field Wednesday, he’s one of several options the Reds will have at first base.
Here are some ways the Reds could replace Votto at first
In 2020, Votto was the only player on the Reds roster who fielded more innings at first base than Reds third baseman Moustakas. Moustakas has played second base, third and first for Cincinnati, and he started eight games at first for the Reds last year.
But moving Moustakas from third base to first would require a shakeup in the infield.
The Reds still have four outfielders vying for playing time, and center fielder Nick Senzel has started two games at second base this season. Earlier this week, Bell said, Senzel has focused on playing second base but has also worked at third base and shortstop.
“Just his readiness, taking ground balls and getting work in at all three positions just adds to what potentially could come up in any game and there would be less hesitation to throw him anywhere if we need that,” Bell said before the Reds game Tuesday. “I think second base is kind of where he’s feeling the most comfortable right now and it’s worked that there are some days where that was a possibility.”
If Senzel plays second base, then second baseman Jonathan India could move to his native third base. If Senzel plays third, then India could stay at second.
In 47 at-bats this season, catcher Tyler Stephenson ranks second on the Reds with a .340 batting average and sixth on the team with a .839 OPS. On Wednesday, he caught seven scoreless innings from starting pitcher Sonny Gray, and Stephenson has had an impressive season behind the plate.
While Stephenson will likely remain a catcher, he could possibly get a few more at-bats in the short term at first base. Stephenson played his first MLB inning at first base on Tuesday, and he worked at the position sporadically during spring training.
Kyle Farmer and Alex Blandino
Farmer replaced Votto in the Reds game Wednesday, and Farmer and Blandino have spent the most time among the Reds current available infielders working at first base during the regular season and spring training.
While Farmer has a .176 batting average and Blandino is hitting .226, they’re two of the Reds best defensive infielders and have had big hits this season.