Votto opts not to play in Classic for Canada

Votto opts not to play in Classic for Canada

CINCINNATI -- Citing a need to focus his attention on getting ready for the upcoming season with the Reds, first baseman Joey Votto declined his invitation to play for Team Canada in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Votto made the announcement Wednesday night in a statement released by the Reds.

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"I have decided to decline this year's WBC event. There were some aspects of my performance in 2016 that I have decided were lacking. I would like to use 2017 Spring Training for preparation," Votto said.

Votto, a Toronto-area native, participated in the WBC for Canada in '09 and '13.

Votto batted 326/.434/.550 with 29 home runs and 97 RBIs last season, but his strong performance came only after a first two months filled with futility. He was batting .213 on May 31 before he started to turn things around.

Votto, a former National League Gold Glove Award winner, also struggled defensively. He mentioned, both at the end of the season and earlier this month, that he planned on dedicating more time on improving his all-around game.

"I am thankful to the Baseball Canada program for inviting me to join the team," Votto said. "It is an honor to represent my country. I made this decision with much reflection because of the pride I have wearing the Canadian flag on my uniform. I look forward to cheering the team on and watching them win the 2017 event."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. 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.