Votto back at Reds camp after COVID bout

March 21st, 2021

Reds first baseman Joey Votto was cleared to return to Spring Training camp Sunday after he endured a bout with COVID-19.

Votto, 37, was placed on the injured list on March 10, following a positive COVID-19 test. Under the rules, he had to be quarantined for at least 10 days. He will remain on the IL but is cleared to resume working out with teammates and he can also play in Cactus League games.

“I feel good. I’m glad to be back and I’m looking forward to putting the uniform on and joining the team,” Votto said. “I missed playing ball, I missed being a part of the group. I’m glad to be back.”

It's unclear how much time Votto will need to get up to speed before the Reds decide whether he'll be ready on Opening Day, April 1.

“I think he’s going to come into camp today, assess where he is, see where that takes him,” Reds general manager Nick Krall said. “Let’s get his legs underneath him and go from there. I can’t give you a timetable. It affects different people in different ways. Hopefully it’s on the sooner end, but we’re not sure at this point.”

Votto declined to detail anything about the illness or what he did while under quarantine. But he voiced his appreciation to everybody who had concern for his well-being.

“It’s not a subject that I really want to talk about,” he said. “I don’t even know if I had a split second where you’re like, ‘should I opt out?’ I didn’t even have that. Not being able to come to the ballpark and put my uniform on and not play ball and be a part of the team, I just couldn’t imagine taking that choice. This came with it. This is part of the risks. I’m glad I’m back. I’m grateful.

“I received a lot of support, not only from friends and colleagues and coworkers, I got a lot of support from people I’ve never met before. I’m thankful and grateful. Our staff was great. [Head athletic trainer] Steve Baumann was outstanding. He took great care of me. Our doctors also, I always felt cared for. I really appreciated that. I wanted to say that out loud. When you’re going through something new and you have great support, you feel lucky. Thanks to everybody.”

Cincinnati has been using a mix of players at first base in Votto’s absence, including Cheslor Cuthbert, Kyle Farmer, Alex Blandino, Nicky Delmonico and Scott Heineman. Cuthbert and Heineman were eliminated for getting a roster spot Sunday when they were among the latest round of camp cuts.

Over four games, Votto was 4-for-9 with a double and a walk before he left the team.

“Obviously, he’s a middle-of-the-lineup bat who gets on base. He’s really had a good camp up until missing time,” Krall said. “We’re excited to have him back. He just adds another offensive threat to our lineup when he gets back.”

Votto plans to use these final weeks before Opening Day to re-sharpening his skills, offensively and defensively.

“I’m looking forward to feeling sharp with the bat, like I’m dangerous as I mentioned before,” Votto said. “Making sure I’m healthy and strong and able to play as often as possible. That’s the goal, and I felt I was trending in that direction. I have to get back to there and beyond, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Lorenzen, Antone banged up
Reds rotation candidate Michael Lorenzen exited his "B" game Saturday with a slight right shoulder strain. Tejay Antone, who has been working back from a groin injury, abruptly stopped a side bullpen session Saturday with an irritation to his hip flexor.

Both are expected to be OK and haven’t been ruled out for the Opening Day roster.

"[Lorenzen] is going to hopefully resume throwing in the next week, and hopefully it’s not that long of a setback for him. He was just taken out as a precaution,” Krall said.

Antone will not be shut down from his throwing program.

“We’re going to work with him as tolerated and keep strengthening and progress as we can,” Krall said.

Roster moves
The Reds now have 42 players left in camp following the latest round of cuts.

Optioned to Triple-A Louisville were shortstop José Garcia, catcher Deivy Grullón, Heineman and right-handed pitchers Hector Pérez and Art Warren. Cuthbert was re-assigned to the Minor League camp.

Alternate site
With the Minor League seasons delayed by a month, the Reds have opted to set up their alternate training site at Louisville. Last year, the club used Prasco Park in Mason, Ohio. Since many of the players who will be at the alternate site will begin the regular season in Louisville, it made more sense logistically to have them workout there.

As for how the delay of the Triple-A season might affect the Opening Day roster, Krall felt that it would be minimal.

“I think it changes how we’re going to get guys ready,” Krall said. “For example, if we’re allowed to play other teams and other games, I think it’s going to be a little bit different than if we’re not allowed to play other teams. We are still working through that, what we can and can’t do. [We're] trying to set up games whether it’s against Columbus, Toledo, where some of the other teams locally would go. I think for us, it’s going to be how we approach the first month of the season if we need a body to come up or go down.”