After six rehab games at Triple-A Louisville, which included two at first base, Joey Votto is ready to put any thoughts of his broken thumb behind him.
His new focus?
The Cincinnati Reds are within one game of .500 after sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals last weekend and Great American Ball Park returned to 100% capacity for the first time this year on Tuesday.
"I don't want to dismiss the performance over the last little bit, but we have big plans and big goals, and we're not quite there yet," Votto said. "As it stands right now, we're heading in the direction we want to go, but we're not quite to that destination."
Votto enjoyed watching the Reds sweep the Cardinals on their road trip, their first four-game sweep in St. Louis since 1990. The Reds were swept in St. Louis in April.
"We had some (trash)-talking (expletive) in St. Louis after the first series sweep," Votto said. "It's nice to go on the road, at their ballpark and let them have it. We had some people sweeping brooms and (stuff) like that while we were leaving. So, how'd you like that? How'd you like that? Lots of season left."
Votto, who missed a month with a broken left thumb after he was hit by a pitch on May 5, said he wanted to return to the big-league club on Sunday in St. Louis, but he thought it was wise to wait until he played a nine-inning game at first base.
The last step of his rehab assignment was catching balls at first base with manageable pain for his left thumb.
"I'm not trying to protect the thumb," he said. "I'm just trying to play. I'm out there, just can't wait to play in front of a – if I'm not mistaken, (Tuesday) is the first day of full capacity. So, that is all I have on my mind: getting a win in front of a full stadium and thanking the Reds fans through effort and through performance."
Votto, who wore No. 47 with the Louisville Bats because it was assigned to him, had four hits in 21 at-bats on his rehab assignment. He was a home run shy of the cycle Saturday with a triple off the center-field wall at Louisville Slugger Field and a double off the left-field wall.
"I feel ready to play," Votto said. "I had some not-so-good games to start, and I felt like I picked it up. I started finding my timing, but it's about time that I put a Reds uniform on and join the lineup."
FULL CAPACITY: The Reds were supposed to return to full capacity last Wednesday against the Philadelphia Phillies, a day that was branded as "Re-Opening Day," but the game was rained out.
What does it mean to have more fans back in the stadium?
"They call it 'The Show' for a reason," Votto said. "We are the show on a nightly basis, and we play in front of as many fans as a stadium can fill. The best part about ball is it's not pre-planned. All these sports are not pre-planned. You get the live event and it all happens in the moment, and I cannot wait to play in front of our home fans. As many as show up tonight, I cannot wait to play in front of them and for them to enjoy a Reds win. Get back up to .500, because ... gotta get back there and then go beyond."
NAQUIN OK: Tyler Naquin was out of the lineup for Tuesday's series opener against the Milwaukee Brewers, but he received good news after leaving Sunday's game with hamstring tightness.
Naquin checked out OK after all the exams on his left hamstring Monday and lobbied to play Tuesday.
"He wanted to play today and I chose to not do that for a couple of reasons," Reds manager David Bell said. "One of them being the other day would have been an opportunity if he didn’t play on Sunday to have two days with the off-day.
"I was so relieved that it wasn’t a worse injury that I wanted to make sure this time, so I gave him today on the back end of an off day – give him two full days. He communicated to me how much he wanted to play."
Shogo Akiyama received the start in center field with Naquin out of the lineup Tuesday.
ROSTER MOVES: To make room for Votto on the 26-man active roster, the Reds placed right-hander Michael Feliz on the 10-day injured list with a right elbow injury.
Feliz has yielded 12 runs on 13 hits and four walks in 6 2/3 innings with the Reds while striking out nine. He didn't record an out in Sunday's game, allowing all five batters he faced to reach base.
Minor league pitcher Hector Perez, who was designated for assignment last week to make room for infielder Mike Freeman, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Louisville.