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03-09-2007, 07:09 PM
Failures taught Votto to succeed
BY CHAD BROCKHOFF
SARASOTA -- After striking out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth inning Thursday, Joey Votto unfastened his batting gloves and calmly walked back to the dugout on the first-base side of Ed Smith Stadium.
Votto may have been disappointed that he was unable to garner a hit off Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya and draw the Cincinnati Reds closer in what was then a 6-3 game, but he didn't let it show. That's the biggest difference between the Votto of two years ago and the high-rising prospect now battling for a spot on Cincinnati's opening-day roster.
Splitting the season between Dayton and Potomac in 2004, Votto topped all Reds' farmhands with a .301 batting average and 92 RBI. The club's second-round pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft appeared to be on the fast track and he started the next season at the advanced Single-A level with the Sarasota Reds of the Florida State League.
Although he saw a drop-off in his numbers from the previous year, the 2005 season proved to be beneficial for the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Toronto native because he learned how to approach the game.
"I learned to deal with failure and how to struggle," said the first baseman, who hit .256 with 17 home runs and 83 RBI in that one season in Sarasota. "I learned the importance of routine and how you have to maintain a routine to mold disciplines. Basically, I learned how to struggle. I think a lot of players have to go through that just to learn what it's all. I found out a lot about myself."
Votto showed just how much he learned last year as he led the Double-A Southern League with a .319 average, 162 hits, 85 runs scored, 78 walks and 46 doubles, one shy of the league record. He also belted 24 homers and earned league Most Valuable Player honors.
"I think the key to my success last year was how consistent I stayed with getting my work in," Votto said. "Making sure that I hit every single day and getting my groundballs in. Just all the little things that I needed to do to become a better player. And, last year was the first year that I finally put all that together. It was an everyday thing. You find out a lot about yourself when you fail, and you find out a little about yourself when you succeed. I learned what it took to succeed."
Votto has played in all eight Grapefruit League games for the Reds this spring, including hitting a solo home run in Wednesday night's 1-1 tie against the Yankees in Tampa. He is 6-for-14 with eight runs scored and five RBI, but he is behind Scott Hatteberg and Jeff Conine on the Reds' depth chart and will most likely start the season at Triple-A Louisville.
"I think that I'm just going to keep playing hard wherever they send me," Votto said. "If they send me to the minor leagues, I'm going to be that much hungrier. This is something that I want really bad. I'm going to work hard and play hard, and play as well as I can to get there and help the Reds. That's what I want to do, and I genuinely think that I can help them."
03-09-2007, 07:13 PM
This kid has a GREAT attitude.
Votto's working, waiting for shot
Likely ticketed for Louisville
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Post staff reporter
SARASOTA, Fla. - Nobody blinked an eye in January when Homer Bailey was named the Reds' minor league player of the year. Maybe they should have.
Chattanooga first baseman Joey Votto had about as good a season as any player in the minor leagues. Votto was the Southern League's Most Valuable Player and batting champion. He also had a shot to win the triple crown. He didn't, but he still finished first in batting average (.319), second in home runs (22) and third in RBIs (77).
In addition to batting, he led the league in eight other offensive categories: hits (162), doubles (46), on-base percentage (.408), slugging percentage (.547), extra-base hits (70), total bases (278), runs scored (85) and walks (78). He even had 24 stolen bases, which tied him for sixth place in the Southern League.
Votto's hot hitting has only continued this spring. Despite going 0-for-1 with a walk and a run in Thursday's 9-7 loss to the Tigers, Votto's average stands at .429. On the spring, Votto is 6-for-14 with four walks, eight runs, a double, a home run and five RBIs.
"I feel like there's a real urgency every time I get up to bat," said Votto, 23. "This is really my only opportunity in front of the major league coaches."
He's making the most of it. Votto homered in Wednesday night's game against the Yankees at Legends Field in Tampa.
"He can certainly hit," Reds manager Jerry Narron said.
As much success as Votto has had for the Reds this spring, he isn't making any plans for Cincinnati on Opening Day.
"They haven't told me anything, but common sense tells me where I'll be," he said. "Realistically, I don't deserve a spot. It's (Scott Hatteberg's) spot. I should be in Louisville. I expect to be there."
Hatteberg signed a one-year contract extension with the Reds last month with a club option for 2008. Hatteberg, like Votto, is a left-handed hitting first baseman (both are also right-handed throwers). Hatte- berg led the Reds in hitting last season (.289) and gives the Reds an option if they don't feel Votto is ready for the big leagues next season.
But even if Votto thinks he is, he won't say it.
"I'm not going to say where I should be, that's embarrassing and out of respect for my teammates, that's not how you go about your business," Votto said. "I'm going to enjoy it while I'm here and play hard. I'm swinging well, working hard, sticking around the cages."
Votto said he was thrilled Wednesday when he got to work alone with Ken Griffey Jr. in the batting cage.
"I used to hit like him when I was a kid. I learn from him," Votto said. "He's got a sore hand and hasn't hit in a while, (but) he's still incredible. There's only a handful of guys in this camp who can swing like him right now and he's sore. This guy hasn't swung in how long. It's embarrassing how good he is."
The incredibly humble Votto would be embarrassed if he heard what other people were saying about him.
Jayhawk Owens was Votto's manager last season in Chattanooga and said Votto was a joy to manage, and not just because of his numbers. Owens said he has no doubt that Votto will be a successful hitter at the major league level.
"I don't know how high his ceiling. He's a guy that's hard to project where his ceiling," Owens said. "How good is he going to be? He's got such a determination and such an enthusiasm to get better. When he gets to the big leagues and hits .300, he's not going to be happy. He's going to want to be a better baseball player every year. His drive and determination is off the charts."
Votto isn't even satisfied with his torrid spring start.
"It's 20 at-bats. I've played 20 at-bats before, everybody's played well through 20 at-bats," Votto said. "I don't look at the numbers, I view it as if I'm having quality at-bats from the beginning of the year and putting the ball in play, I really feel like that's what's important. If I was batting .200 right now and having good, quality at-bats, I'd be so happy with myself. This is just a bonus, it's nice. I obviously want to do well, that's my job. Personally, this early in the spring, I just look at it as a good sign and I'm going to keep working hard."
The hardest work for Votto still lies on the part of the game without the bat. He played just about every position on the field as a high school player in Canada. After being drafted in the second round of the 2002 draft, he played outfield and third base in his first season before being moved to first in 2003.
Since then he's improved his defense, although he still has a ways to go.
"I was a wreck at the very beginning. I've come a long, long way and I'm going to keep going with that," Votto said. "I was never a very good defensive player and now I've started to pull my weight and we'll go from there."
He's had some good plays and some bad plays defensively this spring. On Thursday he misplayed a popup that turned into two Tiger runs.
"He's not a Gold Glover by any stretch, but there are a lot of guys who have come to the big leagues at first base who aren't as good as he is," Narron said. "The easiest thing in the world is to look at a guy in AA and say he's not going o be any good at defense. As long as you're young and you work on it, you've got a chance to get better. He does that."
And there's no doubt Votto will put in the work.
"I know Joey and I know Joey is a really hard worker," Owens said. "He has a great attitude. The kid loves baseball and he can hit. ... Regardless of where he is this year, I know he's going to continue to build."
03-09-2007, 07:15 PM
Votto's homer won't get him to first base
Big-swinging Canadian may need more versatility to find a permanent spot on Reds' roster.
By Hal McCoy
Thursday, March 08, 2007
SARASOTA, Fla. — Joey Votto says kids in Canada aren't born with skate blades attached to the bottom of their feet and he is living non-skating proof.
Although he was born in Toronto, Votto said if he asked a girl to go on an ice-skating date, "She'd laugh at me. My dad put a small rink in our backyard once and it lasted about a week before it melted. It didn't matter. I didn't like trying to skate."
While he wasn't born with a hockey stick in his hands, Votto grew up with a bat in his hands, preferring to swat baseballs over slapping hockey pucks.
It was the Detroit Tigers slapping the ball around Thursday, punching 18 hits in a 9-7 win over Cincinnati, ending the Reds' string of seven games without defeat.
Bubba Crosby hit a three-homer in the ninth to make it close. Adam Dunn homered for the second time and had two hits and Josh Hamilton made a diving catch in right and ripped a triple.
"Tool-wise, Hamilton is as good as anybody in the game," said manager Jerry Narron. "He is a very good outfielder and we know he can play center field, if we need it (if Ken Griffey Jr. isn't ready to play it)."
Votto, 23, has played in all eight and is hitting .375 with eight runs scored. He crushed a home run in Tampa's Legends Field Wednesday against the New York Yankees that may have maimed an alligator in the Everglades.
Votto laughed and said, "I actually missed it, I swear. I can't believe it. I was surprised. I thought it was going to be a fly ball. I got under it. I said that when I touched home plate to (next hitter) Jerry Gil, 'I didn't even get that,' but he didn't laugh because he worried the pitcher would drill him for laughing."
Votto is a long shot to survive because he isn't versatile enough to be an extra player. His position is first base, a position occupied by Scott Hatteberg and his back-up, Jeff Conine, who also plays corner outfield.
Votto hasn't been asked to work in the outfield and says, "They never, ever have asked me. Every single manager on my way up (through the system) has asked me if I ever played other positions. My answer always is no because I've never had the chance to play the outfield. Nobody has ever told me to get an outfield glove and do extra work out there.
"I'd love to try it, just love to, and I think about it," he said. "It would definitely make it easier for me to make the team."
Votto hit .319 in 136 games at Class AA Chattanooga last year after hitting only .256 the year before at Class A Sarasota, "Because they pitched around me a lot at Sarasota, but came right at me, challenged me, in Chattanooga and I could do some damage."
Votto is ticketed for Class AAA Louisville, but believes if he is given a back row seat in the Cincinnati dugout he could help.
"I'm going to keep playing hard wherever I am and if they send me to the minors I'll be just that much hungrier," he said. "This is something I want really, really bad. I'll work as hard as I can to get there as soon as I can to help the Reds and I really feel like I genuinely can help them."
03-16-2007, 06:09 PM
Toronto-born Joey Votto, who grew up playing on West-end diamonds, is a good-looking first baseman in the Reds' chain. Right now, he's their 3rd-ranked prospect, coming off a AA season where he hit .319 with 70 extra-base hits (46 doubles, 22 home runs) and 24 steals. I've taken a particular interest in 23-year-old, left-handed slugger after Warren Sawkiw introduced Joey to me behind the batting cage at Knology Park before a game in March of 2006. Soft-spoken and polite, he looks to follow other fine examples of humble Canadian athletes -- Larry Walker, Bay and Morneau -- to the Majors.
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