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Price shuffles Reds' lineup, moves Votto to No. 2

MLB.com

CINCINNATI -- Sabermetric enthusiasts and old-school baseball types debated the merits all winter about whether Reds first baseman Joey Votto should be moved up from third to the second spot in the lineup. Those who favor Votto batting second often felt the team's best hitter would have more plate appearances to get on base over the course of a season in the two-hole, especially when he hasn't been driving in runs.

In the midst of a slow start offensively, Reds manager Bryan Price made the shift Saturday to have Votto bat second vs. the Rays. The decision had less to do with advanced statistical thinking towards lineup construction, however.

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CINCINNATI -- Sabermetric enthusiasts and old-school baseball types debated the merits all winter about whether Reds first baseman Joey Votto should be moved up from third to the second spot in the lineup. Those who favor Votto batting second often felt the team's best hitter would have more plate appearances to get on base over the course of a season in the two-hole, especially when he hasn't been driving in runs.

In the midst of a slow start offensively, Reds manager Bryan Price made the shift Saturday to have Votto bat second vs. the Rays. The decision had less to do with advanced statistical thinking towards lineup construction, however.

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"More than anything, just rolling out the same philosophy and going down the same road we've gone down for a while doesn't resonate with me," Price said. "I want us to perform better. I want us to score more runs, and I will be willing to do what it takes to take chances with the lineup and make changes that will spur the offense and get something going."

Votto was in the lineup behind leadoff man Billy Hamilton and ahead of Brandon Phillips, who had been batting second. Price first broached the idea of moving Votto in the order during Spring Training, but he has considered it more seriously since the Reds were in New York a week ago.

"Certainly if we were a little bit more dynamic offensively, it wouldn't necessitate a great deal -- if any -- [of] change," Price said. "But we've gotten off to a slow start with the bats. We're losing games by a run. We're showing some spark late in the game. We've done a really nice job against the closers but unfortunately, it's too little, too late.

"There are no messages being sent. It's just trying to be creative in what we're doing. And if we can get Billy on and in scoring position, Joey can drive him in. Brandon can drive in Joey and so on and so forth."

Votto has batted third in every game he's started since Aug. 11, 2009 -- a span of 635 straight starts in that spot. He batted second eight times during his '08 rookie season, most recently on Aug. 8, 2008.

"I think traditionally, the best hitters hit third. Some people have gone against that," said Votto, who hit his first home run of the season in the ninth inning of Friday's 2-1 loss to the Rays. "I won't mind read the motives of why I was changed. Thus far, I haven't been the most productive hitter on the team. My track record will rear its ugly face at some point. I don't really know if it makes too much of an impact overall. I think it's pretty minimal. I'm not sure if it's going to make big swings. But I think that what Bryan is doing, I fully support and I'm excited about the change."

Price appreciated Votto's willingness to do what was needed to help the team.

"It's a necessary part of what we're trying to do here -- we need guys to be selfless and do whatever the club needs to win," Price said. "And right now, we need to shake something up. We need to make some changes. We need to try to find a way to take a great group of baseball players and actually start to play to our ability.

"I don't know if this will make a huge difference. I think it can. I'm optimistic about that. I just didn't feel like sitting on my hands and doing nothing was going to make any difference, so we decided to make a change."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cincinnati Reds, Joey Votto