SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Reds were no-hit by A’s starter Mike Fiers on Tuesday, Joey Votto came the closest to a hit and showed a glimmer of the kind of swings he wants to take.
Votto’s sixth-inning drive to center field was caught at the fence by Ramon Laureano, possibly robbing him of a home run. It’s part of the 0-for-10 skid he took into Friday’s game vs. the Giants. He had an 0-for-14 stretch to start May and came in slashing a very uncharacteristic .210/.324/.339 line with three homers.
“I’m so annoyed with how I’ve performed from a statistical point of view,” Votto told MLB.com. “Every single part of my game needs to get better, for sure. But I feel like I’m headed in the right direction.”
Manager David Bell has had Votto batting either second or leadoff in all of his starts this season, leaving him fewer runners to drive in. But he hasn’t been able to get on base -- via hits or walks -- to set the table for the middle of the order, either. This is all happening on the heels of a 2018 season that left Votto very disappointed with his personal results.
Votto did not feel hitting coach Turner Ward or assistant hitting coach Donnie Ecker -- both hired to Bell’s staff in the offseason -- have had any negative role with his hitting issues.
“Nothing at all,” Votto said. “My strikeout rate has been too high. I’m not getting enough line drives.”
According to Statcast, Votto’s hard-hit rate is up from previous seasons, at 36.1 percent, while his strikeout rate has also jumped to 23.4 percent. He’s had a higher launch angle -- 16 degrees -- than he’s ever had but hasn’t adopted the uppercut-swing approach many hitters around the league are using to get more lift for fly balls.
“He’s hit the ball hard. He really has,” Bell said. “There’s definitely been a lot of work that goes into it, but he’s been through that before. Just like always, he continues to work at it. He’s looking to make sure he’s not missing anything, any necessary adjustments. Just talking to him, it’s going to come back to what he’s always done. He’s a good frame of mind, for sure.”
Even when the results are lacking, Votto trusts his process.
“I really like how I’ve swung the bat in May, despite getting very few results,” he said. “Sometimes that’s how the luck goes. I felt I swung the bat very poorly at the very beginning of the year. I started transitioning to what I feel is an everyday, repeatable approach.”
Bell returns to San Francisco
Bell was managing a game at Oracle Park for the first time and it was a chance to catch up with some people with the Giants. He was that club’s director of player development last season.
During his 12-year playing career, Bell only spent one season (2002) in San Francisco. It was a special one as the Giants reached the World Series and lost in seven games to the Angels.
“I saw quite a few people I worked with last year, a couple of guys from the office. This has always been a really special place, just playing here the one [season] and I had a great experience,” Bell said. “Working here for a year gave me a great opportunity last year. There’s a lot of people here I’m close to and I appreciate. It’s been good to be here and see some of the people I worked with.”