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Votto feels power ramping up as season goes on

@m_sheldon
June 8, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- When Reds first baseman Joey Votto lifted a 2-0 Zach Elfin fastball for a solo home run to left center field in the first inning of Friday’s 4-2 loss, it was significant for a few reasons. It was only Votto’s fifth homer of the season and his first

PHILADELPHIA -- When Reds first baseman Joey Votto lifted a 2-0 Zach Elfin fastball for a solo home run to left center field in the first inning of Friday’s 4-2 loss, it was significant for a few reasons.

It was only Votto’s fifth homer of the season and his first since May 14. But unlike the other four homers he’s launched in 2019, Friday’s was the first one hit to the opposite field. That’s often a good sign that he’s starting to find the power in his swing.

“I’ve been thinking my swing has been coming around since the beginning of May,” Votto said. I know I had some rough stretches, but it’s a very good sign. I haven’t done that yet this year. I’m going to continue to chip away at it and continue to work on my craft and try to impact the team and be, hopefully, one of the eight guys on the position players side that helps us play winning baseball this year.”

Votto has been racking up more hits for a few weeks, but he has just 16 extra-base hits all season. 11 of them have come with the bases empty, including all five of his homers. He is 18-for-68 with runners on base, with 15 of those 18 hits singles.

“Obviously, I’m not where I have been in years past,” Votto said. “It’s 2019. I have to make sure I make the best out of how I feel and how I can perform. I’m doing that right now. It’s a long season. I feel competitive. I feel motivated. I’m putting in the work. I’m steady with my work. I have faith that it’ll show itself over the long run.”

Ward on Puig

No one on the Reds has more experience with right fielder Yasiel Puig than hitting coach Turner Ward. Both came to Cincinnati from the Dodgers in the offseason. Ward spent the previous three seasons in Los Angeles as its hitting coach.

Puig’s tenure with the Reds hasn’t been robust at the plate, as he came into Saturday batting .211 with a .642 OPS, 11 homers and 33 RBIs in his first 58 games, with 59 strikeouts over 218 at-bats. Ward feels like there’s plenty of time for Puig to figure things out.

“There’s definitely been some plate discipline issues,” Ward said. “He has what, 11 homers? You start looking at that over the course of the six months, if this is his bad, what’s his good going to look like? If it’s another 15 homers in three months, you’re at 26-27. If it’s another 45, 50, 60 RBIs, you’re looking at [around 80-90]. We always tend to look at these things now. But we forget about that this is a long season. When players get hot, all it takes is a couple of good months to make their season look good.

“I think we all know that at the end of the season, it’s going to start looking better and better. We’ve got good hitters who will make adjustments. Puig, in particular, is going to look pretty good at the end of the season.”

Puig came into the day in the midst of a 4-for-24 stretch over his last six games and didn’t start on Saturday. However, manager David Bell said it was to get Josh VanMeter into the lineup and not because Puig was slumping.

Lorenzen pinch runs ... from the bullpen

Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen's foray as a two-way player has taken some unique turns this season. On June 2 vs. the Nationals, Lorenzen pitched two-thirds of an inning and then was moved to left field in a double switch. Friday brought another novelty vs. the Phillies.

Lorenzen was summoned from the bullpen but didn’t head to the mound. Instead he went straight to first base to pinch-run for Votto with two outs in the ninth inning.

“That was the first time,” Lorenzen said of that scenario on Saturday. “We kind of came up with that as a solution rather than me running back and forth to the dugout. Unless I’m going to hit, I can go straight to the position from the bullpen.”

There have been occasions where Bell and the coaches think they might need Lorenzen to pinch-hit or run and have him run to the dugout to get ready only to see the situation change. Then he had to run back to the bullpen. That appears to have been remedied.

“They tell me what I’m going to be doing on the phone,” Lorenzen said. “If it happens they’ll just bring the helmet out to me instead of running back and forth.”

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.