Reds first baseman's extra effort already paying off in games
By Owen Perkins
Special to MLB.com |
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- After a morning batting-practice session before Tuesday's game with the White Sox, Joey Votto took to a wet practice field to get some defensive work in at first base. As he prepares for his 11th season in a Reds uniform, the first baseman never gets tired of perfecting his craft.
"He's a relentless worker, a tireless worker in everything he does," manager Bryan Price said of the veteran. "As long as I've been here, he's gotten a stronger and stronger commitment to his defense. He does a ton of extra work at the end of the day."
Tuesday, Votto focused on digging throws out of the dirt, taking throws from every angle in the infield and honing his instincts for picking and scooping.
"He does everything," Price said. "Balls to the line, balls to his backhand, feeds to the pitcher covering, taking balls from close in on the grass, taking balls deep. He's got a great routine, so I don't know if he can work harder at the position, but I do know he's getting more and more comfortable leaving his feet to his backhand and his glove side. You've seen it in the [spring] games already; he's made a couple of excellent plays to both sides that have suggested that the hard work he's putting in is paying off."
One of Votto's defensive goals in 2016 was to upgrade his reaction on pulling the trigger to make diving plays. Price has watched him check off skills every spring, and as the only Reds player to ever win a Gold Glove at first (2011), Votto continues to set the standard for defensive excellence.
"In recent years, he's been much more comfortable leaving his feet going toward the line than he was going toward his backhand," Price said. "It's just the constant work to know when to leave your feet and when not to leave your feet on a ball to his right. ... And he's worked really diligently on it."
There's little about Votto's work ethic that can be questioned, and his performance at the plate is every bit as consistent as his finesse in the field. Votto has hit over .300 in eight of his 10 big league seasons. He's a four-time All-Star, a Hank Aaron Award winner (2010), the 2010 National League Most Valuable Player and the Reds' MVP in five of the last nine seasons.
Price has even seen Votto focus on reclaiming his baserunning form, correcting an approach he'd taken to sliding after missing 48 games with a knee injury in 2012.
"The other day he was working on his baserunning -- his secondary leads, his sliding," Price summed up. "He just looks at his entire game. I don't know if he could work any harder."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.