Former Dragon Votto has big debut with Reds
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By Hal McCoy
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
CINCINNATI — Joey Votto glanced at the lineup card for Wednesday's game against the New York Mets, saw he was batting eighth, and smiled.
Of course, the smile hasn't abandoned his face since he was called up Tuesday from Class AAA Louisville, but this time he was smiling because, "I've never batted that low in the order in my life."
It isn't that Votto was unhappy about his status in the order. He would have been thrilled to bat ninth.
"Maybe I can do something to move up in the order," he said.
Votto wasted zero time making his first statement. He crushed a 421-foot home run off the black windows of the batter's eye in center field his first time up, then added two singles and a walk to help the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-0 victory, ending a five-game losing streak.
As the home run ball nestled in the grass beyond the 404 sign, a National League scout sitting in the pressbox who saw Votto often at Louisville this year, smiled and said, "You're going to see a lot of that out of him. That kid has power."
Said manager Pete Mackanin, "I hope he doesn't think it isn't going to be that easy — or maybe it is going to be that easy for him."
Votto prepared well, watching videotape of Mets pitcher John Maine, "To see he how pitches Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr. and Josh Hamilton (all left-handers).
Votto followed his home run with a walk, a single on a 0-2 pitch from lefthander Willie Collazo and another single. Asked if the home run or the single off the left-hander was the biggest hit, he said, "The home run, absolutely. But the left-hander was more of a reassurance and made me feel good. I missed a good pitch, then got a hit on 0-and-2."
Votto was jumbly inside until he made a throw to third base to wipe out a baserunner and caught a routine pop-up, both in the second inning before he batted for the first time.
"Those broke my nervousness — after that throw and the little pop-up, and I know those are little plays to most people — but I made those two plays and thought, 'Oh my goodness, I'm part of this game.'"
Other than pitcher Tom Shearn — six innings, no runs, three hits — Votto WAS the game, starting with the second-inning home run, making Votto the third player on the Reds this season to make his first career hit a home run, following Josh Hamilton and Ryan Jorgensen.
"Yeah, I thought it was a home run when it left my bat," said Votto. "Center fielder Carlos Beltran kind of gave it a look, then stopped, and I thought, 'Oh, man, I got myself one.'
"Then I thought, 'Don't smile, keep your head down, run hard and touch home plate,'" he said. "From third to home I thought about what they are going to do on the bench, shake my hand, give me a high-five or ignore me."
They ignored him for a few seconds, then they all began banging on his helmet. The baseball was retrieved and Juan Castro threw it into the stands, Votto thought, but they later told him it was a different ball Castro threw away and they kept Votto's home run.
Mackanin said before the game Votto's first start was in the eight-hole, "Because I'm an old-school school guy and when you first break into the big leagues, you're a No. 8 hitter. You have to know how to bunt and do the little things and gradually work your way into it. I hope he does well and we can move him up in the order."
"You want as less pressure as you can," Mackanin said. "I don't believe in taking a rookie and putting him in the middle. Votto made an outstanding showing and perhaps it was because he was hitting eighth and didn't have that pressure of batting third, fourth or fifth. And the pitches he saw might have been different."
Votto broke in big time.
"He is going to play and I'm going to play him as much as I can," Mackanin added. "I'm anxious to see him and I'm anxious to see anybody who had the kind of (minor-league) year he had."
He liked what he saw. A whole bunch.
"He certainly made a nice debut," said Mackanin. "It was a thrill for him, a thrill for me and everybody on the team. The fans, too. A good way to make your debut."
Mets manager Willie Randolph made life easier in the Cincinnati dugout by benching five regulars — Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, Paul Lo Duca, Moises Alou and Shawn Green.
Still it was an accomplishment for pitcher Tom Shearn, six shutout innings on three hits, then scoreless, hitless innings by Marcus McBeth, Jared Burton and Mike Stanton.