Votto back in shape to play every day

March 18th, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Expect to see plenty more of in the Reds’ lineup as Spring Training is about to enter its final week.

The Reds first baseman, who is trying to work his way back from Aug. 19 left shoulder surgery, started during Friday's 7-1 win over the Guardians and went 1-for-2 with a walk and a stolen base. Votto walked in the first inning and lined a single to center field in the third inning before stealing second base. In the fourth, he sharply lined out to deep center field.

Since Saturday's game vs. the A's is a scheduled day game after a night game, manager David Bell didn't plan to play Votto.

"But he's definitely in a spot now where he can be playing every day," Bell said. "He will be part of that same plan that everyone else is on unless he says differently. Not tomorrow, but Sunday and as many days as he can play the rest of the way, he'll be out there."

Votto, 39, made his Cactus League debut on Sunday vs. the Dodgers and played again on Tuesday against the Royals. After being hitless in five at-bats, he notched his first spring hit on Wednesday vs. the Cubs -- an RBI single -- but it was wiped out when the game was later called because of rain.

A target date for when Votto would be ready for the regular season has never been disclosed. His surgery required repairing tears in his rotator cuff and biceps. 

Votto is entering the final year of a 10-year, $225 million contract extension he signed in 2012. 

In 2022, Votto batted .205 with a .689 OPS with 11 home runs and 41 RBIs in 91 games. It was the worst production he's had during a Major League career that began with Cincinnati in 2007. 

This spring, Bell has been pleased with Votto's progress in camp.

"He's moving well. He's doing everything 100 percent," Bell said. "Looks good running. There's still plays -- he's getting back into feeling like a baseball player in every way. Just to the eye, he looks great at the plate and moving well. He looks really strong."

More items from Friday at Reds camp
• In his latest tune-up start, was sharp with four-plus scoreless innings, two hits, no walks and five strikeouts.

"Everything felt great," Ashcraft said. "It feels like I’m not forcing it right now. Everything feels like it’s clicking. I feel like I’m in a really good spot heading into the season."

Ashcraft faced the minimum through his first three innings and used his cutter to get Amed Rosario to ground into a double play in the top of the first. He exited after his first batter reached on an error in the fifth.

"We went cutter up and in," he said of facing Rosario. "Especially with lefties, our goal is to keep tight inside with the cutters, because nobody has really ever ambushed it and gotten out in front of it because of the movement on it. Whenever we need a ground ball, that’s usually the go-to."

• Shortstop has continued to come on offensively and was 2-for-2 with a walk on Friday to raise his spring numbers to .310/.375/.517 in 11 games. Barrero hit an RBI double in the third inning and an RBI triple in the third.

• Rotation candidate , who exited from a Minor League game on Monday with a sore right forearm, played catch on Friday afternoon.

"We’ll know more after that," Bell said. "So far, a quick recovery. If he is throwing today, that’s a good sign.”

• Lefty reliever returned to camp after pitching for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic. Sanmartin appeared in two games and gave up one earned run and four hits with one walk and three strikeouts.