Votto: Leadership role completely unchanged

Star first baseman plans to continue setting example for young Reds

Votto: Leadership role completely unchanged

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- During a recent drill at Reds camp called "27 outs," the team needed a runner on first base to start the play. Any Minor Leaguer or rookie could have done it, but it was first baseman Joey Votto who grabbed his helmet and jogged to the base.

A few observers this spring have anecdotally mentioned that Votto is often among the last off the field during workouts.

"I haven't done it intentionally," Votto said on Thursday. "I was doing the same thing when my leadership was questioned before."

Votto, 32, has taken some hits in the media over the years for not being a vocal clubhouse leader. He has cringed in the past when players toss around the leadership word and announce that they will be team leaders.

Reds Spring Training information

As far as Votto is concerned, leadership doesn't work that way. He generally aims to set a high standard on the field and be a good example. That could be even more important this season since the Reds are rebuilding and feature a slew of new and young, impressionable players.

"I feel comfortable with these guys. I'm working the same," Votto said. "I'm running the bases the same. Nothing feels different at all. If people want to look at it differently, I can't do anything about that."

Votto, who is tied for the second-longest tenure on the club with nine seasons and has eight years and $199 million left on his 10-year contract, has enjoyed this year's edition of Reds camp.

"I think [it's] the freshness. There is a collective sense of humility," Votto said. "Last year was a very humbling experience, an embarrassing experience.

"I think we've realized that we can go in two directions. One being that we're the kind of organization that's a walk-all-over team, a team that is just a stepping stone for other organizations towards the playoffs and World Series. Or we're not going to say, 'We're bad,' and be embarrassed by that and do our very best to be as competitive as possible."

Though the Reds were 64-98 and finished last in the National League Central, Votto was third in NL Most Valuable Player Award balloting last season.

Outlook: Votto, 1B, CIN

In five games this spring entering Thursday, Votto was batting .455 (5-for-11) with one home run. Against the Angels on Monday with the third baseman playing back, he successfully bunted for a single to the left side.

Votto has been spending extra time at the bunting station before workouts to practice it along with Jay Bruce. It could be a way to keep opposing defenses honest rather than using a shift against the lefty hitters.

Although he's put the work in, don't expect that to be a regular facet of Votto's game.

"I think I'm 1-for-4 [bunting]," Votto said. "The only way I'll do it is if it's something I can pull out at any time. It can't just be a flip-of-the-coin thing. It has to be somewhat automatic, or else there is no point putting it out there. I can't burn an at-bat like that. If I want to put the ball on the left side of the infield so badly, I'll just try to hit it over there."

That could be another example for younger hitters on the Reds to follow.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.