When Joey Votto signed a 10-year, $225 million contract extension with the Reds just before the 2012 season opened, the first baseman expected both the highs and lows for the team to come with it. The playoff runs came in both ’12 and ’13, but that high didn’t last long enough.
The lows? Well, those lasted for six consecutive losing seasons and Votto -- the only Reds uniformed member who was on the last playoff team -- was around for all of it. On the eve of the Reds' 2020 postseason beginning with the National League Wild Card Series vs. the Braves in Atlanta, Votto was thrilled to be back.
“I’m very excited,” Votto said on Tuesday from Truist Park before a team workout. “I have to manage that, but I can’t wait to compete [Wednesday]. I’m glad we’re starting at noon, as early as possible so we don’t have to wait. I think, collectively, we’re all very excited. I can’t wait to play.”
In the 2010 NL Division Series vs. the Phillies, which Cincinnati was swept out of in three games, Votto was 1-for-10. His fortunes improved greatly in the '12 NLDS vs. the Giants as he batted .389 (7-for-18) with four walks, but the Reds lost in five games. In the '13 NL Wild Card Game at Pittsburgh, Votto was 0-for-4 in the loss.
Votto, 37, batted .226 with an .800 OPS, 11 home runs and 22 RBIs in the 2020 regular season. After he was batting .191 on Aug. 25, manager David Bell benched him for three games. Votto responded by batting .258 with a .941 OPS and eight homers over his final 29 games as he adjusted his approach to harness more power.
“During the regular season, there’s occasional moments where you get a surge of adrenaline or the moment calls or asks, you come up late in the game or somebody intentionally walks someone in front of you and all of a sudden, you’re shaking with adrenaline just out of anger,” Votto explained.
“You get that almost the entire game, every playoff game. I remember my very last at-bat in ’12 and ’13 where there was a big moment that we wanted to continue, just kind of chipping away at trying to tie the game up.
“I felt a real surge of adrenaline. You get a lot of those moments in the playoffs, for sure. So there’s not a lot of coasting.”
Castellanos' advice: Take your time, slow the game down
The one and only time Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos experienced postseason play was in 2014 with the Tigers. As a 22-year-old rookie in the American League Division Series vs. the Orioles, Castellanos was 1-for-10. Detroit lost the ALDS in three games.
“I thought at that point I was just going to be like, ‘Oh, man, this is what the Tigers do. I’m going to win our division every year,’ because I was able to do it in ’13 and ’14. It’s not always the case,” Castellanos said. “There is definitely a new appreciation of being able to get back here and competing.”
Castellanos had some advice for the majority of his teammates that are experiencing postseason play for the first time.
“I’d say just staying focused and slowing the game down,” Castellanos said. “Taking a little bit of extra time getting into the box if you have to, calling time, gathering yourself before each pitch. Really, that was told to me by my veterans when I was there the first time. What I’m pretty much saying is the same thing.”
Workout moved indoors
Because of showers in Atlanta, the Reds were forced to hit and work out inside Truist Park on Tuesday afternoon. That underscored the importance of getting in Monday’s light workout at the ballpark after the team arrived late on Sunday night.
“It was good. I wasn’t expecting not to get on the field today,” Bell said. “We hit in the cage. Our pitchers got out and were able to play catch. We got some workouts in the weight room. Basically, we just moved today, which was good to get out of the hotel.
“... It worked out fine today, because we had gotten out on the field. Our infielders got on the infield and took ground balls and got a feel for how the infield plays -- same with the outfielders. Our hitters got to be on the field and hit on the field. The combination of the two days worked out perfectly fine.”
Like Votto, Bell had no issue with the early start time of Game 1.
“There’s less time to think, so I think that’s good,” Bell said. “It’s definitely earlier than most games, so we’ll be up earlier. It’ll be jam-packed in the morning, and then we play. It’s good though. We’ve had these two days to really settle in here in the clubhouse. So there’s not a lot of work, really, to be done tomorrow morning.”