Joey Votto: Cincinnati Reds are ‘ready and motivated’

Reds first baseman feels refreshed as Summer Camp begins

Joey Votto has played 1,717 games in the big leagues — all with the Cincinnati Reds. He has played 857 of those games at Great American Ball Park but had never experienced anything like what he saw Friday when Summer Camp began.

» DAY ONE: Bell says Reds have to get ‘comfortable with the uncomfortable’

“Inside the clubhouse, it’s different, significantly different than what we’re used to,” Votto said after the workout. “But once you get on the field, we have the freedom to more or less do our job. There’s a clear difference inside. The more time you can spend outside, the more regular, the more familiar things will feel. Personally, I’m going to try to set it up so I can spend as much time outside.”

Players took batting practice Friday and worked in the field. At one point during the workout, Votto took throws at first from shortstop Freddy Galvis and third baseman Eugenio Suarez as a coach in right field hit fly balls to Nick Castellanos with a tennis racket.

Votto spent the three months between the suspension of spring training March 12 and the return of baseball at home in Toronto and said he washed his groceries when he brought them home and cleaned all the doors with Lysol even though he was by himself.

“It was wash, rinse, repeat,” Votto said.

Votto didn’t give details about his baseball preparation but said he tried to prepare for this moment. He plans to treat the three-week training period as if he’s halfway through spring training.

» NEW RULES: Bell gives his thoughts on 2020 changes

“It’s really important to have some urgency at this point without panicking too much,” Votto said. “Because it’s almost entirely going to be intrasquad games, it’s going to come quicker than we realize. We don’t want to get caught off guard collectively. I don’t think we will. It looks like guys are ready and motivated. It seems like a group of guys who flipped the switch and they have it. That’s a really good thing. Hope, I can try to keep up with those guys.”

The 2020 season will be Votto’s 14th in the big leagues. He’ll turn 37 in September. His batting average has dropped four straight years, and his on-base percentage has slipped three straight years. He has 27 home runs total the last two seasons after hitting 36 in 2017.

However, Votto said he feels refreshed after the time away and said he hasn’t felt this way in years. He did not consider opting out of not playing because of the coronavirus pandemic as a few players across baseball have.

» WORKOUTS BEGIN: Bell focused on keeping players healthy

Votto joked he was lobbying for a 162-game season in 60 days for full pay. The 60-game season that starts July 23 or July 24 will have to do.

“I’m excited,” Votto said. “I really am excited. I miss the guys. I miss the staff. I miss competition.”

Playing without fans in the stands — at least at the start of the season — presents another challenge. All the Reds, Votto said, have played with games with no fans in the stands early in their career in instructional leagues, for example, or extended spring training.

“You learn how to perform with or without players in the stands,” Votto said. “The real adjustment for most players was probably in their Double-A or Triple-A year and eventually in their first Major League year was the adjustment to fans. Some guys, it takes longer than others, and some guys, you never make the adjustment. I think it may be a little bit weird, but all of us have already been desensitized to that. I don’t think it will take us very long to be competitive.”

» SUMMER CAMP: Four things to know about Reds roster

Adjusting to the new health and safety protocols will also take some time. Players are used to things being a certain way, Votto said, and are often on autopilot because they’re trying to conserve energy for competition. In the past, they might not have paid much attention to certain rules in place, but they will this year out of respect for their teammates, the coaching staff — and most importantly, Votto said — the community in general.

The players will police themselves, Votto said, and also be held accountable by the organization. The temperature checks, the wearing of masks, the rules against spitting, etc, it all makes for a weird atmosphere, and it’s no one’s favorite thing.

“We’d like things to be normal,” Votto said, “but we also want to play. If that takes this sort of adjustment, we’re willing to do it.”

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