Joey Votto wanted to become more dangerous at the plate this season, continuing an adjustment he made after a three-game benching last season where he stood taller and traded some power for some strike zone command.
The results haven’t been there to this point.
Votto is hitting .214 with three doubles, four homers and 11 RBI in 84 at-bats. He’s posted a .283 on-base percentage, which is on pace to be the lowest OBP of any month in his big-league career when he’s played more than a handful of games in the month.
“Not a lot of results of late,” Votto said, “but I’ve felt good all year.”
Votto, who came off the bench in Monday’s 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, is hitless in his last 13 at-bats. Following a three-hit game against Cleveland ace Shane Bieber, Votto is 2-for-24 with four walks and nine strikeouts.
The Reds need him to produce as a middle-of-the-order bat, but there are signs that he’s on the right track with his approach. He’s barreling pitches at a rate that he hasn’t done since 2017. He rated in the 26th percentile in exit velocity in 2020 and he’s up to the 86th percentile this season.
“We’re asked to do more than just do that,” Votto said. “The walks haven’t been there. I don’t like that. I just have to accept that it’s part of a long season. Certainly, not many hits and that’s not good. That will have to change. Yeah, I’m happy when I take good swings and time pitches that the ball comes off well. I don’t feel like there’s a ballpark I can’t hit a deep ball out of.”
Results matter more than just hitting the ball hard, especially if it’s into a defensive shift, but if he continues to make quality contact, his numbers should improve.
“The ball is coming off my bat harder,” he said. “It’s just carryover from last year. Again, I haven’t had a really good stretch yet. I had a three- or four-game stretch. It’s very short. It’s very early in the year. I haven’t performed well. I need to play better and I think that will come.”
STILL IN CENTER: Nick Senzel played an inning at second base in Sunday’s series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals, the second time this season that he’s played an infield position for an inning when the team had a short bench.
Senzel took ground balls in the infield before Sunday’s game, but it’s not a sign that he’ll be spending more time in the infield.
“There’s been a few situations where just given our roster, he’s been our available player that can play the infield,” Reds manager David Bell said. “We haven’t been really too hesitant to throw him out there, but in fairness to Nick, we thought it would make more sense if he took some more ground balls there every now and then just in case. There’s been a few games where it’s come up.
“No plans to have him start playing there more at this point, but like I said, it could come up any game. I think it’s good for you, too. I think it’s good for outfielders to take ground balls. It’s good for infielders to take fly balls. It’s good for pitchers to get a variety of different work in.”
THE GLOVE FITS: When Alex Blandino started Monday’s game at first base, just his second career start at the position, he used Mike Moustakas’ first baseman mitt.
That’s just one of the four gloves that Blandino has in his current rotation. He has a third base glove, a middle infielder glove, Moustakas’ mitt for first and an outfield glove that he borrowed from Tyler Goeddel, a friend who retired.
“Every time I’m walking out, I’ve got like two bats, elbow guard, four gloves and I’m dropping stuff left and right,” Blandino said. “It’s kind of tough. I have my own little corner in the dugout where I have all my gloves and stuff. It takes up a little more space than maybe my allotment, but it is what it is. I’m ready to go anywhere.”
Blandino is earning more opportunities because of his success at the plate, producing a .464 on-base percentage. He’s 7-for-22 this season with three doubles, five walks and six strikeouts.
“I sat down with David maybe a week ago just to see if had any input or any suggestions about if I could help the team out,” Blandino said. “He was just very complimentary about how I was going about my business. He mentioned to me that he would try to get me a few starts in the near future.
“I'm always in the mindset of having to prove myself and I like that mentality. I think you're only as good as your last game. It's kind of what have you done for me lately league. You're always being evaluated on how you're doing at the time and while it is nice to feel like I'm establishing a role on the team, you never want to be too comfortable.”