Future is now for Reds' Votto
Top prospect hits homer in star showcase
BY DAVID BUSH | ENQUIRER CONTRIBUTOR
SAN FRANCISCO - Each of the Reds' two participants made his presence felt in Sunday's annual All-Star Futures Game, one more event in what has been a season of change for the two prospects.
The World team - a 7-2 winner in the exhibition between top minor-leaguers at AT&T Park, the site of Tuesday's All-Star Game - included Cincinnati's Triple-A first baseman Joey Votto while the U.S. team included Jay Bruce, an outfielder for Double-A Chattanooga.
Votto, a Toronto native who helped his side's cause with a sixth-inning home run Sunday, will resume his part-time schooling at a new position when he returns to Louisville. With an eye on their future major-league needs, the Reds have been giving their 2002 second-round draft choice playing time in left field. He admits to some difficult moments in the 20 or so games he has tried it.
"I am actually getting better out there," he said. "From the beginning, you can't get much worse than I was. But I have come by leaps and bounds since then."
Even first base wasn't always Votto's work station. He was drafted as a catcher, but no one felt his future was behind the plate.
His fielding at first base is more than adequate, which makes it easy for him to work in the outfield.
"The reason why I don't mind playing left field and getting some work out there is that I am comfortable at first," he said. "I feel like they can stick me in left field for a week and I can come back and have the same ability at first."
But his bat, which has produced a .315 batting average in Louisville following his MVP season at Chattanooga last year, is what intrigued the Reds.
And he showed it off by belting a drive over the left field fence. The left-handed hitter said the off-field power was a good sign.
"I like to hit the ball to all fields," he said. "But I usually find I am on my game when I am driving the ball hard the other way."
Bruce, who hit a triple, said he has adjusted to a new team and a new level of competition.
An outfielder who was the Reds' first-round choice two years ago, Bruce started the season at Class A Sarasota and by hitting .379, earned a promotion last month to Double-A Chattanooga, where he has kept up the performance, averaging .328 with four home runs.
"It was an adjustment in some ways, and in some ways it wasn't," Bruce said. "It's still baseball, and I do my thing. But there are some differences. The pitching is a little more consistent, better defense. So far I have been pretty fortunate getting some good pitches, and when I get 'em, I hit 'em."
He hit one Sunday in the second inning, knocking a pitch from Phillies prospect Carlos Carrasco into the right-center field area of AT&T Park, known as Triples Alley. And third base is where Bruce ended up.
"So that's what it's called," he said. "I can see why."
Votto was making his second appearance in the Futures Game. And while he said he doesn't want to make a career of being a star of tomorrow, he said he enjoyed the experience.
"I had never been to San Francisco," he said. "It's a great city and a great ballpark. And it's always good to play against the best at your level."