Notes: At long last, Votto hits the bigs
Clubhouse is crowded; Freel's heart and hustle recognized
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- The development was long and deliberate and the promotions were incremental, but first baseman Joey Votto finally entered the clubhouse at Great American Ball Park -- as a Major Leaguer.
Votto never doubted himself or that this day would eventually come, but then again ...
"You kind of say, 'When is it going to happen?' Five years is a long time to wait," said Votto, one of six September callups who arrived on Tuesday from Triple-A Louisville. "I'm just happy to be here. My goal is to never go back down.
"I had a real good idea I was going to come up. I read about [Brewers first baseman] Prince Fielder, where he said in ESPN the Magazine that when he got up to the big leagues, he felt like he was home. I think I'm going to feel that when I get comfortable with my teammates. But it really does feel like I've come to where I belong. I'm going to play hard and do my very best and back up that feeling with proof."
Votto, 23, batted .294 with 22 home runs and 92 RBIs this season at Louisville. A 2002 second-round Draft pick, he was named the Bats' Most Valuable Player and the International League's Rookie of the Year.
"I'm just going to learn," he said. "If they play me, I'm going to play hard. I'm going to play as well as I can. I'm going to pay attention, mostly. I have a lot of stuff to learn. Hopefully, this month can create a smooth transition into next year. That's the goal."
The rookie won't have to wait long to crack the lineup, as interim manager Pete Mackanin plans to start the left-handed-hitting Votto on Wednesday vs. the Mets. He didn't start on Tuesday because New York started lefty Oliver Perez.
As a Reds scout, Mackanin saw Votto in big league camp the last two years of Spring Training. The two met in the manager's office on Tuesday afternoon.
"We have to get a read on him at this level," Mackanin said. "He's got potential. He's done well. He's an aggressive hitter. I like the way he swings the bat. I'm anxious to see how he performs here."
Votto spent considerable time playing left field at Louisville, but Mackanin said that he would play him at first base this month. The Reds already have a left-handed-hitting first baseman in Scott Hatteberg, who is smart enough to know the score.
"I know I won't play as much. I was completely aware of it," said Hatteberg, who has a $1.85 million club option for 2008. "If I were the manager, I'd have to give him a good look. He's done so well at all levels of the Minor Leagues. This is the next stop. This team has a lot of young guys they are going to look to for the future. He's definitely one of them."