Votto returns to Reds lineup for start of series against Rockies

Veteran first baseman will play for Reds for first time since last August

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

The Cincinnati Reds announced the return of first baseman Joey Votto to the roster on Monday before the start of a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies at Great American Ball Park. He started at first base and batted sixth in his 2023 big-league debut.

“I feel much more like myself,” Votto told reporters in a pregame press conference. “Health is not a thought while I’m competing. I don’t think about it when I’m hitting. I don’t think about it when I’m playing defense, when I’m running, sliding, diving. I don’t think about anything other than execution. That’s been on my mind for almost exactly one calendar year. Health has been an issue. Now I’m back to full health.”

Votto joins a team that has won eight games in a row. The Reds (37-35) climbed within a half game of first place in the National League Central by sweeping the Houston Astros on the road over the weekend.

Votto, 39, had surgery in the offseason to repair a torn rotator cuff in his left bicep. He did not play after Aug. 16 last season and has been on the injured list all season while rehabbing with the Triple-A Louisville Bats. This will be his 17th season in the big leagues, and he has spent his entire career with the Reds.

This is the last year of a 10-year, $225-million contract Votto signed in 2014. He will make $25 million this season. The Reds have an option on Votto for the 2024 season and could pay him $20 million or buy him out for $7 million.

Votto broke the news of his own promotion Sunday on Instagram, thanking the doctors, trainers and physical therapists for helping him get back to the big leagues. He also thanked his coaches and teammates in Louisville.

“My time in Louisville has been excellent,” Votto said. “I’m grateful for my teammates, grateful for my time here. Everyone’s been welcoming, so thank you. And I can’t wait to get back to Cincinnati.”

Votto hit .173 with three home runs in 22 games with Louisville. He was 0-for-6 in his last three appearances after going 2-for-2 with a home run Thursday.

“It was a long rehab,” Votto said. “Ten months is a long time. This is the first day I could have been back. I can’t rejoin a winning ballclub with championship aspirations without being fully ready. I recognize the momentum. I recognize the excitement. I recognize the culture. It was my responsibility to make sure I come back and catch up and get up to speed with them, and I feel that.”

Votto’s streak of 14 straight Opening Day starts ended this year as he began the season on a rehab stint with Louisville. He hit .184 (7 for 38) in 10 games for the Bats before his first rehab assignment ended.

Without Votto, the Reds have used Spencer Steer at first base the majority of the time. He has started 43 games at first, 13 at third base and three in left field, which is where he will start Monday night. He’s tied for the team lead with 10 home runs and tied for second with 39 RBIs.

Jason Vosler started 13 games at first before being sent down to Louisville. Other players who have started games at first are: Wil Meyers (8); Kevin Newman (4); and Tyler Stephenson (4).

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