The last player to start at first base on Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds other than Joey Votto was Scott Hatteberg, who got the gig in 2008, his final season in the big leagues.
By comparison, five different third basemen, five different second basemen and nine different shortstops have started the opener in the same span.
Fifteen years later, someone other than Votto will start Thursday for the Reds at first base on Opening Day. He has started the first game of the season 14 years in a row but told reporters in Cincinnati on Monday he won’t be available for the 2023 opener.
“I’ll be heading down to Nashville to finish my rehab games,” Votto said, “and then I’ll come up not long after that.”
The Triple-A Louisville Bats open the season Friday in Nashville. The Reds play the Pirates a day earlier at Great American Ball Park.
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.
Earlier this month when asked if he’d be ready for Opening Day, Votto said, “We’ve got 162 games to play. I’m not worried about one game. I’m concerned about being able to come come out and play well and be healthy for as much of the season as possible.”
Votto hit .182 (4 for 22) with a double and one RBI in eight spring training appearances. He said he and the Reds made the decision for him to start the season with a minor-league rehab stint on Monday.
“What led me to that decision,” Votto said, “was just not being ready, starting a good bit behind during spring training, still working through some of the rehab process, not accumulating enough time in the field, not accumulating enough at-bats. Yesterday was the first day where I felt semi close to being able to play close to 100%. It takes a stretch of time feeling that way before you feel like you’re regular-season ready. And it saddens me because Opening Day means a lot to our city and it means a lot to me. This is just how it has shaken out this year. I’m trying to hustle back and get back in uniform as quickly as possible and help the team. It’s just going to be a little bit later this year.”
Christian Encarnacion-Strand made the most appearances for the Reds at first base in the Cactus League. He hit .577 (15 for 26) with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 12 games but will start the season on the injured list.
The first baseman with the next most appearances was Jason Vosler, who hit .262 (10 for 38) with two home runs and four RBIs. Vosler, 29, hit .265 in 36 games last season with the San Francisco Giants. The Reds signed him as a free agent on Feb. 1.
Spencer Steer started nine games at first base last season for the Reds. He played third base this spring and hit .271 in 18 games.
Reds manager David Bell said Monday they haven’t determined who will play first base on Thursday.
“We still have the two days here in Cincinnati to make some final roster decisions,” Bell said, “so it’s a little bit early to really talk about that because (the Votto news) is new information that we have to process and figure out, but it’s going to happen quick. We need everyone to know their situation.”
THURSDAY, MARCH 30
Pirates at Reds, 4:10 p.m., 700, 1410
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