Votto's will to improve earns him playing time
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By Hal McCoy

Staff Writer

Sunday, April 13, 2008

PITTSBURGH The conventional theory is that Dusty Baker prefers veterans over young players, something he vehemently denies and something he is proving by the way he is handling Joey Votto.

If the theory was true, veteran Scott Hatteberg would be playing more than Votto. Check the numbers. Votto started at first base Saturday for the sixth time. Hatteberg has five starts.

"I was going to give Votto a chance regardless," said Baker. "I'm trying to break him in a little slower. He is going to be fine. He is swinging better every day. I see more bat speed and I see more hip speed than what I saw in spring training.

"Plus, he works hard, man, as hard as anybody here," Baker added. "He wants it and he'll get it."

Votto works every day with hitting instructor Brook Jacoby and says it is to his benefit.

"It takes me a little while in spring training to get my swing down," said Votto. "I definitely feel like it is coming close. Jake has been a huge help. He is in there with me every day and we get some alone time so he can talk with me to get my swing right.

"He always has some little thing for me," Votto added. "One thing about Brook is that he is not overbearing about it. I've had hitting coaches who throw a lot at you at once and sometimes that doesn't do a hitter good. Brook has a little something every day that I can use in that night's game."

He used Jacoby's tutoring well Saturday night, poking three hits to raise his average to .320, although his error led to two runs in a 4-3 loss.

'K's' not everything

Some people wondered why Edinson Volquez only struck out one (pitcher Paul Maholm) in his five shutout innings Friday against the Pirates.

One of those was not Baker.

"Strikeouts are not always the benchmark of whether you are throwing the ball well or not," he said. "The benchmark is how the other team hits the ball. And they didn't hit the ball very well off him. And the Pirates aren't a big-swing, strikeout team anyway, other than a couple of guys."

Hard-won souvenir

Ken Griffey Jr. was displaying the outline of a baseball on one of his buttocks Saturday, souvenir of getting hit by Pittsburgh pitcher Paul Maholm in the first inning.

"Take two fastballs down the middle for strikes, then get drilled," said Griffey.

Griffey also had some words for umpire Mike DiMuro during his ninth-inning at-bat Friday and Griffey rarely says anything to umpires. When DiMuro called strike two, Griffey turned and said, "That ball was low and outside."

On the next pitch, also low and outside, Griffey ended the 1-0 game on a deep fly to right center and said, "I knew I had to cover that pitch because if the umpire gave him (Matt Capps) a strike on the previous pitch he'd give it to him again so I knew he would throw it there."

On Tuesday in Chicago, Griffey and Baker will wear uniforms No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson.

Drying the field

The PNC grounds crew was unable to completely cover the infield Friday night during a heavy storm because the tarp became too heavy. So how did they play an hour later?

The grounds crew covered the infield dirt with 7,000 pounds of Kwik-Dry, 140 bags at 50 pounds each, the most in the 15 years Manny Lopez has been grounds crew chief.

And they scraped it off Saturday morning.

Quote of the day

"The joy of winning does not equal the pain of losing." manager Dusty Baker after his team's 1-0 loss to the Pirates Friday and 4-3 loss to the Pirates Saturday.