Ask Hal: Aggressive approach key to Votto’s revival

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about our nation’s pastime. Tap into that knowledge by sending an email to

Q: With all the technological advancements in MLB, why haven’t we seen the use of drones? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: I’m not so sure the Houston Astros aren’t using them to steal signs. Maybe they will use them for the manager to tell his defense where to shift. At the very least they could use drones to deliver baseballs to the umpires

Q: Joey Votto has averaged 13 home runs over his last three seasons and already has 26 (through Friday’s game) this season, so did he find the Fountain of Youth? — JOHN, Oxford.

A: To my knowledge, he has not visited St. Augustine. What he has done is come out of that peek-a-boo crouch to stand straight up, quit choking up on the bat and holds it down on the knob, swings harder, doesn’t take so many close pitches and has become what he said he wanted to be this year, “An aggressive, dangerous guy.” So far, mission accomplished.

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Q: If Michael Lorenzen is playing the outfield and came in to pitch would he have to face three batters if the pitcher he replaced went to the outfield and the manager wants him back on the mound after Lorenzen faces one batter? — JIM, Lakeside Park, Ky.

A: No matter what, Lorenzen would have to face three batters. That’s the rule, whether Lorenzen came from the bullpen, the outfield, the dugout or the parking lot. Any manager who would put a pitcher (other than Lorenzen or Shohei Ohtani) in the outfield for three batters is asking to be unemployed.

Q: When MLB makes out the schedule, do they roll dice or try to anticipate good match-ups for season-ending excitement? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: Some believe they just throw darts at the wall. Actually, it is done in Butler, Pa., by a firm called Sports Scheduling Group, LLC. It must make certain division teams play each other the same number of times. Excitement is not part of it. They don’t know who will be good and who will be bad, other than the Pittsburgh Pirates will be bad every year. They do make sure that most September games are intra-division games.

Q: If the designated hitter comes to the National League would that make retaining strikeout-prone power hitters like Eugenio Suarez an important decision? — THAN, Urbana.

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A: Oh, it is not an if. The DH is coming to the NL. Did you notice last week in Cleveland that Reds manager David Bell used Joey Votto as DH, not Eugenio Suarez. My take is that unless Suarez makes a dramatic change, like making contact once in a while, his days in Cincinnati are at a small number. Next year it will be Mike Moustakas at third, Jose Barrero at shortstop, Jonathan India at second and Votto at first. Suarez will be a “Where’s Waldo?”

Q: What does Reds pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez have written on his cap?—MIKE, Fairborn.

A: Gutierrez is a Cuban and the writing on his cap is in support of his people for the civil unrest in his native country. He also has the same supportive messages on his shoes. Hitters probably believe it says, “I’m going to throw you a slider and you can’t it.”

Q: Why are they blaming the defensive shifts when all they need to do is hit ‘em where they ain’t? — WALT, Tremont City.

A: You answered your own question, except you can’t guide a baseball. You can try to hit the ball the other way against the shift, but it isn’t easy. I will agree that not many players try it. And in some cases, shifted defenses are glad to see a power hitter try to push a single the other way instead of hitting one into the upper deck. But I am firmly with the group that says, “Ban the shift.”

Q: With the ghost runner placed on second base in extra innings, if he scores is an earned run against the pitcher? — TIM, Xenia.

A: No, it is not an earned run. But if the batter hits a home run, the batter is an earned run and the ghost runner is an unearned run. However, if the ghost runner scores and is the only run, the pitchers gets a big fat ‘L’ on his record. Does that all make sense? No, it makes about as much sense as giving a runner second base that he hasn’t earned.


Q: Johnny Bench is on your roster and needs a day off, so of the catchers in the organization since he retired who gets the start? — KRISTOPHER, Dayton.

A: Johnny Bench would need more than a day off since he is 73 years old. My choice, though, comes from a long list: Dan Wilson, Ryan Hanigan, David Ross, Joe Oliver, Eddie Taubensee, Ramon Hernandez, Benito Santiago and Tucker Barnhart. And because Barnhart is the first Reds catcher since Bench to win a Gold Glove, and he has two, Barnhart gets scribbled into my lineup.

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