McCoy: Votto off injured list, back in lineup for key series vs. Brewers

Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto fields the ball and throws to first base during the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox in Cincinnati, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto fields the ball and throws to first base during the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox in Cincinnati, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Credit: Aaron Doster

Credit: Aaron Doster

The Louisville Bats handed Joey Votto uniform No. 47 and he put it on without a whimper, but said Tuesday afternoon, “I’m happy to be wearing No. 19 again.”

That’s because Votto finished his rehab assignment with Louisville and was activated to play Tuesday night in Great American Ball Park.

Votto was in the lineup, playing first base and batting fourth in an important series with the first-place Milwaukee Brewers.

After a four-game sweep in St. Louis, the Reds began the series one game under .500 (28-29) and four games out of first place.

Votto, while elated with what his teammates did in St. Louis during his absence, says the process has just begun.

“I don’t want to dismiss the performance over the last little bit, but we have big, big plans and goals,” he said. “And we’re not quite there yet.

“As it stands right now, we’re headed in the direction we want to go, but we’re not quite to that destination.”

And that would be first place, to have and to hold until the season do them part.

Votto, though, couldn’t resist aiming some pointed slams at a few St. Louis fans after the Cardinals swept the Reds in St. Louis early this season.

“I wish I was there for our sweep, but I’m a part of the team even when I’m not there,” he said. “I got to enjoy watching our guys play amazing.

“We had some blankety-blank, blank, blank talkers in St. Louis after their first series sweep and it was kind of nice to go on the road to their park and let them have it. There were some people sweeping broom and crap like that when we were leaving after their sweep. So, how’d you like that? How’d you like that? And there’s lots of season left.”

Now it is back home and for the first time since the end of the 2019 season there can be a full house in Great American Ball Park.

Votto has been able to swing a bat for quite a while, but the hold-up has been sticking his fractured thumb into his glove without pain.

“I’m not trying to protect the thumb,” he said. “I’m just out there to play. I can’t wait to play in front of a full capacity and that is all I have on my mind, getting a win in front of a full stadium and thanking the Reds fans through our effort and performance.

“It’s the best (a full house) and it is exactly how it should be,” he added. “They call it The Show for a reason. We are The Show on a nightly basis. The best part about baseball is it’s not pre-planned. You get the live event and it all happens in the moment. And I can’t wait to play in front of our home fans, as many as show up tonight, for them to enjoy a Reds win.

“And to get back to .500, we gotta get up there and then beyond,” he said.

While he was gone, and before he was gone, Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos  have been splicing together incredible seasons.

Recently, with his three home runs Sunday in the 8-7 win in St. Louis, including the game-winner in the ninth, Winker has been getting all the attention. He appeared on MLB-

TV’s Intentional Talk before Tuesday’s game.

“Winker has been excellent,” said Votto. “I don’t know if Nick gets as much love as he deserves. He has been excellent also. I don’t know how you hit .370 or .360 and go under the radar.

“Winker, though, has been stellar,” he added. “Sometimes you see players right around this time of his career blossom into who they can become. We’re getting to see that first-hand.

“It’s been just a treat, especially when a lot of people doubted his power and his ability to hit,” Votto continued. “All of a sudden he is 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. He can do more and I look forward to that.”

Winker entered Tuesday’s game hitting .350 with 37 RBI and 17 home runs, tied for the National League lead in homers with San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. and Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna, Jr.

His three homer-game in St. Louis was his second three-homer game this season. The first came against Milwaukee last month. The first two were hit off pitcher Adrian Houser. And Houser pitched Tuesday night.

Castellanos, who had a 22-game hitting streak stopped Sunday with an 0 for 5, is hitting .359 with 12 homers and 31 RBI.

After playing nine innings for the first time Sunday with Louisville, Votto restarts his season with the Reds hitting .226 with five homers and 17 RBI.

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