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06-18-2007, 12:09 AM
Votto hopes he'll soon join Bailey in the big leagues
By C.L. Brown
cbrown@courier-journal.com
The Courier-Journal

Now that pitcher Homer Bailey has gotten his call to the big leagues, the other ballyhooed prospect who started the season with the Louisville Bats wonders when his chance will come.

Joey Votto -- the Cincinnati Reds' 2006 Minor League Hitter of the Year while in Double-A Chattanooga -- was the prospect mentioned just after Bailey before the Bats' season started, but Votto doesn't feel the hype surrounding the two players is comparable.

"A lot of people think he's almost the savior of Cincinnati," Votto said of Bailey. "Whereas myself, I think people think I'm a solid player and have the potential to do some good things, but they don't put me in the same classification as Homer."

After a slow start, Votto has lived up to his billing in Triple-A. He erased an April of hitting just .192 by going .402 through May, and his 17-game hitting streak that ended May 26 is the team's longest this season. Votto has reached safely in 39 straight games, which rank second in the International League.

Votto was batting .312 through Friday night's game and ranked second in the IL in on-base percentage (.423), third in walks (43) and eighth in hits (71). Not to mention the 23-year-old leads the Bats with eight homers.

"I don't know the Reds' thinking," Votto said. "All I know is I'm down here to get better, and that's all I really can do.

"I'd like to get up there as soon as possible. I'd like to be a part of it right now. But I want to get up there and have as clean a game as possible so I can make that transition and I don't have to go over a bunch of speed bumps."

One speed bump has been Votto's fielding. He's made seven errors playing mostly first base and some left field. His errors are second most on the Bats behind Mark Bellhorn's eight.

"We've kind of dropped on him learning to play left field, too, so that makes it tougher trying to learn another position," Bats manager Rick Sweet said. "But he's just going to have to do it. In order for him to play in the big leagues he's going to have to be able to defensively go out and play the game."

Votto believes he can do that now.

"I've really felt like my defense has come, not necessarily full circle, but I can definitely hang with the major leaguers," he said. "Hitting-wise, I've got to cut my strikeouts down. I've got to learn to drive the ball to all fields, but I don't feel like this is anything I have to be in Triple-A for."

http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070617/SPORTS07/706170575/1002/SPORTS