Losing Joey Votto Big Blow to Reds

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It wouldn’t be a surprise if Reds manager Dusty Baker went home with a headache when he got wind of Votto’s medical prognosis. At the moment, 50-39 Cincinnati is a first-place team, leading the National League Central Division. The Reds have been playing very well, with solid starting pitching, excellent relief pitching, thanks to All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman, and they have been hitting well recently.

Lefty-swinging Votto was the main man, batting .342 with 14 home runs and 49 RBIs, but the rest of the lineup was holding up its end. And it’s not clear what the best solution is for the Reds at first base in his absence. Todd Redmond, a pitcher, was promoted from AAA Louisville to replace Votto on the roster, so the answer isn’t coming from the farm system.

The other night Todd Frazier, who filled in at third when Scott Rolen was injured, and has played some outfield, guarded the first-base bag. Frazier is versatile and made waves with extraordinary pinch-hitting earlier this season. If he can handle the glove duties and hit at least .260, he may not be moved out of the slot while Votto rehabs.

While the Reds are the leaders in their division, their lead is far from safe. The resurgent Pittsburgh Pirates are right there and anyone who underestimates the St. Louis Cardinals, especially after their late-season rally last year, would be foolish. So the pressure is on the rest of the Reds to play just as well while Votto is out as when he was the linchpin of the batting order. That’s a tall task.

Dealing with knees is always a tricky business. Still, Votto had the mildest form of surgery to repair torn medial meniscus cartilage. There was no indication that this was a severe injury and if Votto was not an athlete in the middle of his season, just a Joe, not a Joey, he might well have opted to go through a life of trips to the grocery store and office without surgery.

But processing paper and producing RBIs are two different jobs. The one good thing about the timing of Votto’s injury is that the corrective surgery now gives him time to recover in order to play at what in theory should be full strength before September and throughout the last month of the season.

The division title should not be a runaway for anyone, but beyond that, with extra playoff spots at stake under the new Major League system, the Reds want to be clicking near the end of the year. The goal is to get into the playoffs on a high and a fully functioning Joey Votto would help ensure that.