By Hal McCoy
For those who want Joey Votto dumped down in the batting order, dumped on to the bench or dumped into the laps of another team, well, none of it is likely to happen.
To the contrary, Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell is excited and ecstatic over what he saw at the end of last season from the 37-year-old first baseman.
While many fans believe Votto is slipping down the steps of time and that his career is in the past, Bell believes Votto found baseball’s version of the Fountain of Youth late last season.
During a Zoom media conference this week, Bell was asked about Votto, of whom many believe is an albatross with the team on the hook to pay him $115 million over the next four years. And they consider him an anchor defensively and on the basepaths.l
“So, Joey last year. . .ah. . .(laughter). . .made an unbelievable adjustment,” said Bell. “He got off to a slow start — kind of the way we did as a team. I believe we had the third or fourth best record in the game from somewhere around August 25th to the end of the year.
“Right around that same time Joey worked hard, just like he always does, and really made a solid adjustment where he became more aggressive. a little bit more on the attack, maybe a little more upright (in his stance),” said Bell.
Indeed, Votto started slowly and was below the .200 Mendoza line for the first couple of months. His change in approach enabled him to finish the pandemic-plagued 60-game season with a slash line of .226/,354/.446.
“I’m not sure of all the adjustments he made, but it certainly was a different look,” said Bell. “Joey finished really strong and he was a big part of our team’s success while we were playing well several weeks. So I really believe he can take that into next season. There is no reason why, at his age, the way he takes care of himself, that he won’t be able to take that adjustment he made and have another solid season.
“I know he is very energized by our team, by the group of players we have, by the success we had to get to the playoffs last year. And that’s a driving, motivating factor for him. I expect Joey to be a big part of our team and carry what he picked up last year into next season,” Bell added.
THERE IS A MAJOR hole, more like a sink hole than a cavity, that the Reds must fill at shortstop.
They let the magical glove of Jose Iglesias flee the premises to Baltimore after the 2019 season and he was a stellar Oriole.
The Reds brought in Freddy Galvis to play shortstop and he was not what his baseball card said he could be. And at the end of the season, the team brought up 22-year-old Jose Garcia, a flashy glove man who hadn’t played above Class A. As one might expect, he was in deep water far over his head (24 games, .194/.208/.194).
Galvis is a free agent and Garcia can use some minor-league seasoning sprinkled on his bat. So who plays shortstop? While it is evident the Cleveland Indians are anxious to trade Francisco Lindor, he probably is at Neiman-Marcus while the Reds are shopping these days at J.C. Penney. Lindor will command a high salary and the Indians will demand a high return in a trade.
Bell, though, dropped a bit of a shocker when asked about shortstop. How does Kyle Farmer sound?
“You look at what Kyle Farmer showed us last year. . .he stepped up for us,” said Bell. Indeed, Farmer played everu position last season but left out. And did well, especially at shortstop.
“He played really well at shortstop, just like he said he was going to and he sure did,” said Bell. “He played a ver solid shortstop, just a good ballplayer.
“Jose Garcia. . .uh. . .came up and we knew that we were rushing him. He played an excellent defensive shortstop,” said Bell. “Even though he struggled at the plate, in not very many at bats, the way he handled it and the way he handled the pressure of it, the way he handled it mentally, showed me a lot. That gives me a lot of confidence to know that we can look at that experience and know that it was a good one for him, even though the results might not have been there.
“Having had that experience last year really leads me to believe that he is really close,” Bell added. “Would it be good to give him some more time in the minors? Maybe. That might be the case, but I think he is a lot closer than it appeared last season.
“And we have Alex Blandino (injured most of last season), who has put in his time and had a great attitude and continued to work hard and stay ready. It would be good to see him get an opportunity.
“So that’s where we are. . .today,” he said. “We’ll see how it plays out. We’re in good shape because of those three guys.”
Where they are, truthfully, is in need of a big league shortstop, somebody like free agent Sir Didi Gregorius.
The Reds originally signed the Netherlands-born Gregorius in 2007 and he languished in the minors for five years. He played six games for the Reds in 2012, then was part of a massive three-team trade.
The trade went something like this: Gregorius was traded as part to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Arizona Diamondbacks sent Matt Albers, Trevor Bauer and Bryan Shaw to the Cleveland Indians. The Cincinnati Reds sent Drew Stubbs to the Cleveland Indians. The Cleveland Indians sent Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Cleveland Indians sent Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Donald and cash to the Cincinnati Reds.
And now, after playing one season with the Philadelphia Phillies (.284/,339/.488), the 30-year-old Gregorius is a free agent, waiting to put pen to paper for the right bidder.
NEXT: Rotation, Outfield.