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Votto aims to improve after 'frustrating' 2018

First baseman led National League in OBP, but still wants to get better
February 17, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Even before the Reds underscored their determination to improve by making major offseason acquisitions for the club, first baseman Joey Votto was already working to improve his hitting and his overall game."I'm ready to work. I'm excited," Votto said on Sunday as he reported to Spring Training

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Even before the Reds underscored their determination to improve by making major offseason acquisitions for the club, first baseman Joey Votto was already working to improve his hitting and his overall game.
"I'm ready to work. I'm excited," Votto said on Sunday as he reported to Spring Training with the other position players. "I think last year was a frustrating year and I'm looking forward to proving to myself that isn't the sort of level I expect. I expect a better performance."
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
Votto, 35, lamented the big drop off he had in 2018. Following a near-MVP season in 2017 when he hit .320 with 36 home runs, he batted .284/.417/.419 with 12 home runs and 67 RBIs in 145 games last season.
Sure, he led the National League in on-base percentage (.417) while he had an .837 OPS. For most hitters, Votto's production would have been acceptable. But if anything has been learned over his 12 Major League seasons, Votto is not most hitters.
"Every season more or less just happened. I don't know," said Votto. "It's hard to speak on this without sounding arrogant, but it just always happened. I performed at a certain level. I always met my minimums. Last year was a bit of a shock."
Reds manager David Bell thinks Votto's commitment to improving himself is a great example for the rest of the team.
"It's incredible. It speaks to his drive," Bell said. "He deserves every amount of success he has. He's talented, but the amount of work and effort ... he puts everything he has into it. That's what it takes. But he takes it to another level."
During his offseason, Votto spent a lot of time conditioning and wanted to not be even 99 percent ready for camp, but the full 100. He also dissected his swing and without explaining in detail, understands why his power dipped so drastically.
"I thought there was something in my swing, the angle as it came through the zone," Votto said. "A lot of my hard-hit balls were poorly directed. I think it was very much a mechanics thing and not a physical thing."

While Votto was making his changes, the Reds made theirs. Trades brought Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp for the lineup and Tanner Roark, Alex Wood and Sonny Gray for the rotation.
Bell was hired to manage in October. From his years in the Reds' organization as a Minor League manager early in Votto's big league career, Bell knew him a little. He's been sure to connect with Votto and have conversations during the offseason.
"He's such a big part of this team, this organization," Bell said. "People look to him. Even though every relationship, every connection, every person in this room is part of what we're doing and a big part of it, the fact that he's been here and has been so important to this organization, there is a lot to be said for that."
Bell also revamped the entire coaching staff. That included adding Turner Ward as hitting coach and Donnie Eckert as the assistant hitting coach.
"Turner seems like he's going to be easy to work with, and so does Donnie," said Votto. "I think I'm optimistic about being able to get in there every day, and getting some really good work in.
"There's a lot of new faces here. We've made a significant improvement. We've added All-Stars. We've added guys with long track records. We've added guys who have a lot of things to gain by playing well here. Hopefully, we carry it into winning performance."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.