Joey Votto didn’t take part in the Reds’ four-game sweep of the Cardinals in St. Louis this past weekend, but he made it clear how much gratification he took from the series after what he experienced during Cincinnati’s last trip to Busch Stadium.
“We had some [trash]-talking [stuff] in St. Louis after the first series sweep,” Votto said about the reaction to the Cardinals taking all three games against the Reds in April. “It's kind of nice to go on the road, at their ballpark, and let them have it. We had some people sweeping brooms and [stuff] like that while we were leaving. So how'd you like that?”
Votto, 37, has been out after fracturing his left thumb against the White Sox on May 5. He spent six games with Triple-A Louisville on a rehab assignment over the last week. Votto wanted to return for Sunday’s series finale against the Cardinals -- against whom he’s hit .304 with a .932 OPS in his career -- but thought it would be smart to get a nine-inning game under his belt to make sure he was ready to return to the big league club.
“I felt like I could play, so I don't know how much longer that I could have stayed down there to come back here,” Votto said. “I wanted to join the guys. I wanted to come on Sunday, but wisely, I needed a nine-inning game. How could you not want to join a four-game sweep on the road?”
Votto -- activated off the 10-day injured list Tuesday -- is rejoining a team that’s won seven of its last 10 games. However, even the sweep of St. Louis couldn’t help the Reds make up ground on the National League Central-leading Brewers, who went into Tuesday’s series opener at Great American Ball Park on their own four-game winning streak.
That stretch came without one of Cincinnati’s most important bats in Votto, who said his thumb feels good enough that he’s not worrying about protecting it on the field. Now that he’s back, Votto should provide a boost to a club who plays 10 of its next 13 games against teams in the NL playoff picture (the Reds will start a seven-game road trip to Milwaukee and San Diego on Monday).
“I don't want to dismiss the performance over the last little bit, but we've got big plans, big goals, and we're not quite there yet,” Votto said. “So as it stands right now, we're heading in the direction we want to go, but we're not quite to that destination.”
“He’s going to be a big part of our success moving forward,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It’s great to have him back healthy. I know he’s looking forward to playing.”
Naquin feeling fine
Reds center fielder Tyler Naquin was not in the lineup for Tuesday’s series opener after a left hamstring strain forced him out of Sunday’s game, but the good news is his absence is out of precaution, according to Bell.
Bell said that the exams on Naquin's hamstring went well Monday.
“I was so relieved that it wasn’t a worse injury that I wanted to make sure this time, so I gave him today [off] on the back end of an off-day [to] give him two full days,” Bell said of Naquin. “He communicated to me how much he wanted to play.”
Shogo Akiyama started in center field Tuesday, though Naquin will likely be back in the lineup Wednesday.
To make room on the active roster for Votto, the Reds placed reliever Michael Feliz on the 10-day injured list. The ailment is listed as a right elbow injury (retroactive to Monday), though the specifics weren’t known prior to Tuesday’s game. Feliz was tagged for five earned runs Sunday against the Cardinals.
“I think sometimes you see players right around this time of their career blossom into who they can become, and we're getting to see that firsthand. It's been such a treat, and for a guy that a lot of people doubted his power and his ability and his ability to hit, all of a sudden he's as much of a power threat as anybody. I'm happy for him, I'm proud of him and I want to see him do better. Not just at this level. He can do more.” -- Votto, on Jesse Winker’s performance