GOODYEAR, AZ. — Joey Votto was not in Tuesday’s Opening Day spring training lineup and he isn’t likely to be there for a few games. Or more.
While it is too early to yank the firehouse alarm bell, there is no doubt Votto is behind in his baseball preparation and was not ready, “To hit the ground running,” as was the though process before camp.
If manager Bryan Price is concerned, he is hiding it behind a Happy Face and, in fact, patiently explains The Grand Plan for the $225 million first baseman.
“It is all about his durability,” said Price. “We don’t have guys come to camp on February 1 who have not done baseball work and fire them into games. He is doing a bunch of strength training but just beginning to do baseball work as far as swinging the bat and taking ground balls.”
VOTTO, OF COURSE, missed 99 games last season after suffering a distal quadriceps strain and spent most of the off-season doing rehab work that limited his baseball activities.
“Votto started later with his baseball work than the rest of the guys,” said Price. “As far as cutting, running laterally, sliding, all the agility stuff that he hadn’t been able to do are what he is incorporating into his game right now, early in the spring.”
With no trace of panic or concern, Price calmly said, “We just want to make sure we are getting off on the right foot with Joey from a durability stand-point. Fatigue and pain played a large role in his inability to be on th field last year.
“We just want to build him up to appropriate strength and then build him up like the rest of the guys,” Price added. “It is hard to say an exact date (when he can play in games), but it comes down to him getting enough reps until we’re comfortable to letting him play. I don’t think we’ll see a huge separation between him and the rest of the guys.
“We just want to make sure he is ready,” said Price. “He has come this far, put in all the work to do this and it didn’t make sense between the medical staff and myself to fire him out there on Opening Day and until he gets as many ground
balls as he need. And it won’t be until he has the opportunity to slide and cut and do drills — all the things he wasn’t able to do before he got to spring training.”
ANTHONY DESCLAFANI starts Game Two of the spring training exhibition schedule Wednesday against the Cleveland Indians and continues to be manager Bryan Price’s odds-on favorite to grab the one of the two available rotation spots (Tony Cingrani is the other).
It is a bit curious that the organization has so much confidence in the 24-year-old right hander whose total major league record is 2-2 in 13 appearances (five starts) with a 6.27 ERA.
So why is that?
“He is a mature, well-round pitcher with good stuff and command,” said Price. “Good stuff and above average command is a great combination for a young pitcher. He is more polished than most young pitchers and he has the equipment to start.
“After having to move two of our starters (Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon) we had to get somebody in return who could potentially step into our rotation as a young starters,” Price added. “That’s why I’ve ear-marked him as a favorite for our rotation.”
That doesn’t make him a dead, solid lock. And Price quickly points out, “He has to go out there and pitch and earn a spot on the club. Our scouts have seen him and like him a lot and from what I’ve seen this spring I like a lot. He is a mature, composed, competitive guy.”
He throws a fastball, a slider and a change-up and can throw a second breaking ball.
HOMER BAILEY’S SECOND session off the mound went about the same as the first. Good. But he lasted longer. After throwing 20 pitches in his first session he threw 26 in his second.
“And it look me longer to get tired than it did the first time, so I’m building it up,” he said. Bailey will make his third bullpen appearance on Thursday.
THERE IS A Bryan Price pitching for the Cleveland Indians and he pitched Tuesday against the Reds. Said Bryan Price, the manager, “I’m glad he has made it to the majors. His name, like mine, doesn’t have that major-league ring to it, you know what I mean? I needed a melodic name like John Montefusco, John D’Aquisto or Juan Marichal.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: This utterance shall remain as something that came out of an anonymous mouth to keep him out of harm’s way: “How does the University of Kentucky basketball team stay under the salary cap.”