Votto plans to return Friday vs. Jays

May 19th, 2022

CLEVELAND -- As he prepared to play nine innings at first base in a game that was eventually rained out Wednesday evening for High-A Dayton in the fourth game of his rehab assignment, Reds first baseman provided an update that should please fans in Cincinnati and Toronto -- where his club is slated to open a three-game series on Friday.

“I will likely be there Friday,” Votto said via Zoom. “Nothing comes to mind that would keep me from being there Friday. I feel well. I’ve been competing well. I played seven innings yesterday. I’m ready to play.”

A Toronto native, Votto has been on the COVID injured list since May 3, and revealed that he spent more than a week dealing with effects of the illness.

The Reds’ trip to his hometown is not the reason for Votto’s likely activation, however. If he wasn’t ready to play, the 38-year-old noted, he would have stayed on the rehab assignment.

“The timing just worked out,” said Votto, who also contracted COVID-19 during 2021 Spring Training. “If I wasn’t ready, if I ended up taking this time off, five or six days later, I would have missed the series. I just want to come back and perform well. I’ve performed so poorly this season, it’s not something I'm comfortable with or used to.

“Coming back from being on the couch or in bed for eight, nine days, I need to make sure that I’m in a good way physically or else I risk injury, or I risk poor performance. I have to come back and perform well.”

It's been a disastrous start to the 2022 season for Votto, who is batting .122/.278/.135 with only one extra-base hit -- a double -- in 22 games.

Votto was cleared to resume baseball activity and workouts last week in Cincinnati. He started his rehab assignment with two games at Triple-A Louisville on Saturday and Sunday as the designated hitter, before moving to Dayton for Tuesday and Wednesday and playing first base. He has been using the time to work on his fundamentals and hitting.

Last season, amid a resurgent year, Votto missed a month in May with a fractured thumb and came back to have a strong season.

“It’s a six-month season. Whether I perform well the day I come back or as the season moves along, I have a responsibility to play well every single day,” Votto said. “That’s what my focus has been on. That’s what my target is.”

While he was sick, Votto spent time posting chess moves on Instagram and photos from his travels. But baseball was at the forefront of his thoughts.

“You go from playing every day to -- I was ill -- posting up in a hotel room or at your house. It sits with me,” Votto said. “I never want to play poorly and I’m a problem-solver by nature when it comes to my job. I spent most of my time trying to come up with some simple ideas for a return, the adjustments I would like to make. That’s basically it. Then now I’m executing them in my practice work and in-game, so it’s really nice to be back working.”