By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Joey Votto seemed on the verge of becoming, well, Joey Votto. In four games he collected 10 hits of an assorted variety.
Then in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was running from third to home on a late-game sacrifice fly when he felt something amiss in his right leg.
It was tightness in his right hamstring, which is why he didn’t play the second game of the doubleheader and why he wasn’t in Tuesday’s lineup for game three against the Pirates.
A conventional player might say, “Oh, no. I finally come out of a deep funk, 10 hits in four games, and now this and I have to miss a couple of games.”
That’s not Votto, though. Votto is not the conventional kind of guy. When describing Votto, one word comes to mind. Different.
So when he was asked about the timing of the injury he quickly said, “No, not at all. I take the off-season off and I’m still the same hitter. I can take a few days off and I’ll be OK.”
The thing is that when Votto takes that off-season off he isn’t the same hitter when he begins the next season. He starts like a locomotive, chugging away from the station at a slow pace until it builds up speed. It takes time, lots of time.
“I know what you are saying after my not-so-good start,” he added. “I’ve gotten going offensively from the hitting side of things. But it’s a long season and I was confident this (hitting) was going to come. I think I am going to perform even better.
“The thing is for us to collectively play well. I was happy to sit out (the second game) and watch an 8-2 victory. I’m not concerned, not concerned,” he said quickly.
This season it has taken two months to get up to speed and now this. For example, he has 10 hits in his last four games. It took him 11 games to get 10 hits to start the season.
Without the tight hamstring Votto would have played the second game, but with a six-run first-inning explosion he wasn’t needed.”
Asked when it popped up, he said, “Yeah, yesterday, going from third to home. Right after I went third to home we (Votto and manager David Bell) made an in-game decision after I felt it (that he shouldn’t play the second game).”
Tight hamstrings have a propensity for becoming strained hamstrings and if pushed too hard they become torn hamstrings. Votto, though, isn’t concerned about it lingering, at least not outwardly.
Manager David Bell is confident it isn’t serious and went so far as to say Votto might be available to pinch-hit Tuesday night, if needed.
“It is a little bit of a tight hamstring,” he said. “We’re just being extra cautious with him and we anticipate he’ll be available off the bench tonight. Hopefully, it is just another day.
“We’re not sure when he did it,” Bell added. “It was a hot day and we’re not sure if it might have been a cramp. He made it through the game. He said he could play today but he woke up and it was a little bit tight.”
FOR THE FIRST 54 games, the Reds ran out the same parade of five starting pitchers to the mound — Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark, Anthony DeSclafani and Tyler Mahle. Nobody missed a start.
But because Monday’s doubleheader, the Reds needed to plug in a starter for Tuesday so they called up Lucas Sims from Class AAA Louisville.
The 24-year-old right hander was one of three players the Reds acquired at last year’s trading deadline from the Atlanta Braves for outfield Adam Duvall. The Reds also acquired pitcher Matt Wisler and outfielder Preston Tucker, both long gone. Duvall? He is languishing in Atlanta’s minor league system.
Sims, making his first major league start since 2017 when he made 10 starts in the Braves rotation, was 3-and-0 with a 4.06 earned run average in nine starts for the Bats and Louisville was 6-and-3 for his starts.
“We’ve seen him a lot and we’re comfortable with him,” said Bell. “He is ready to go win a game. He is excited to be here and he has been pitching well so we’re happy to have him here and comfortable having him out there tonight.
“He is right on the brink of being here,” Bell added. “He has been here before (with Atlanta and three brief relief appearances for the Reds last season). We’re confident in having him here and it is nice to have a guy like him to plug in for a start like this.”
Sims, a native of Lawrenceville, Ga. was Atlanta’s No. 1 draft pick in 2012 out of high school and spent five years in the minors before getting his chance.
“He is a great guy and he is talented and right on the brink of becoming a full-time major league pitcher,” Bell added.
DEREK DIETRICH was speaking with his tongue deeply entrenched in his cheek when he talked about the 433-foot home run he hit against the Pirates in Game 2 of Monday’s doubleheader.
For the second time this season against the Pirates Dietrich hit a ball that was searching for a runway to land. And for the second time he stood at home plate and admired his height and distant, then trotted around the bases at a pace that could be timed with an hour glass.
The first time was in Pittsburgh and he drowned a ball in the Allegheny River. He stood, he watched, he admired and he circled the bases like a tourist observing the Roman Colosseum.
Pittsburgh pitcher Chris Archer took umbrage and threw a pitch behind Dietrich on his next at bat, igniting an on-the-field tag team match between the two teams.
Then he did it again Monday, clearly inviting retaliation Tuesday.
“I don’t show anybody up, I don’t do anything against the other team,” he said. “I just hit the ball and whatever happens I come back in and try to do it the next time.
“I’m just having fun and playing hard,” he added. “Every players should play like me. That’s how it goes.”
Asked if he enjoys going around the bases the way he does, he said, “I do. I hit it well. I don’t know if I’d do what Yasiel Puig did because I’m not as fast as he is. I won’t challenge him. Hey, I don’t plan anything so we’ll see whatever happens next. Stay tuned.”
After Dietrich’s home run Monday, Puig drove the next pitch into the second tier of the left field seats and sprinted around the bases like world class sprinter Usain Bolt.
Fox Sports Ohio timed Dietrich’s trip at 30.45 seconds and Puig’s trip at 18.20 seconds.
“Puig and I addressed that at a team meeting today,” said Dietrich. “We’re going to try to find a happen medium.”
Indeed, stay tuned.