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Surprise! Votto will play in Surprise

MESA, AZ. — There will be a surprise when the Reds play in Surprise, Az. Saturday afternoon — Joey Votto will be in the lineup playing first base and batting second.


“We evaluated him and everything looks good on that,” said manager Bryan Price. “We really put him through the rigors Thursday. He was on the bases twice at full speed and he was sliding.


“Then we ran an advanced amount of a work load which consisting of a significant amount of ground balls and way more swings in the cage than he was taking when he first arrived this spring,” said Price. “Now he’ll be just like the other (regulars), playing three, four and five innings for now.”


PRICE LOVES HIS points of emphasis during spring training and he has one for Devin Mesoraco and the catchers. He wants his receivers to do more throwing behind the runners, particularly making pick-off throws to first base.


“Devin is working hard at throwing behind runners and that is another area of focus for all of our catchers, to make sure base runners aren’t getting comfortable secondary leads.”


Price invokes the names of Pudge Rodriguez and Yadier Molina as guys who controlled the running game with the threat of throwing behind runners and picking them off.


“Guys who are willing to throw behind runners really do force the runners to have an acute awareness of getting back to the bag on a pitch that is taken or swung and missed,” said Price. “We want the runners to be aware that we will back-pick and they can’t get those comfortable secondary leads.”


HOMER BAILEY COMPLETED this third bullpen session Thursday and said he threw another no-hitter.


“It was 37 pitches and I got a lot of first-pitch ground ball outs,” he said jokingly. He didn’t face hitters, just threw off a mound to a catcher. “Yep, a 37-pitch game, a lot of quick outs, fastest game ever.”


Seriously, though, Bailey said it was the best he felt of his three bullpen sessions, “Every one has gotten a little bit better. I’ll probably do two more.”


IS HE ANXIOUS TO start throwing to live hitters and then get into exhibition games?


“Not yet. I want everything to be done right. You don’t want to be rushed,” he said and then laughed. The ‘rushed’ reference was to the charge made my Mat Latos that the Reds rushed him back from injuries last season.


“But, yes, there is no double I’m ready to get back out there and compete, but let’s take our time and do this thing right,” he said. “Once I start I can take off and not worry about setbacks.”


IT WAS EARLY FRIDAY morning when he spoke and he was anxious to get his work in and leave to participate in a roping contest in a rodeo at nearby Buckeye, Az. And he hoped to compete again Saturday and said, “If you win you can make lots of money. If you lose you don’t make anything.”


Manager Bryan Price is encouraged by what he has seen from Bailey after his late-season forearm surgery.


“He has thrown three bullpens and before he gets into live batting practice we’d like to integrate some breaking balls into his bullpens,” said Price. “It is an outing to outing re-assessment for Homer. We have a map on what we expect him to do, hope that he does. But there is no guarantee. It may bea slower progression or more rapid. So far, so good.


“I saw his first two sessions and he looked very good,” said Price. “Typically a forearm recovery is easier than a shoulder recovery. So I don’t anticipate any setbacks. His mechanics look good and the ball is coming out of his hand really well.”


MARLON BYRD KNOWS what he is talking about when he talks hitting with the other players and it is clear he might some day be an excellent hitting instructor.


How about the golf swing?


“My kryptonite is this,” he said, making the motion of a big slice “When I play golf I take 50 balls and if I hit one where I think I’ll have trouble finding it I just drop another ball.


“I know what to do to fix that slice, but I don’t really care,” he said. “I play golf to have fun.”


THE 15,000-SEAT Sloane Park, new spring home of the Chicago Cubs, is a gorgeous place. But if you want a Chicago foot long hot dog it is $12. If you want a Polish sausage it is $10. There were more folks lined up at the ATM machines than there were in the restrooms. There were 15,331 in the park Friday for the Cubs-Reds game, an all-time Cactus League attendance record.

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