"We just came to the agreement this year that we'd talk regularly, and he has that ability any time he feels like he needs a day or if I feel like I want to approach him and say, 'How you doing?' that's what we do," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said on Friday. "It wasn't the way we started the season, or we really spoke about it. It's headed in that direction."
George Foster was the last Reds player to start every game in 1981, but it was a strike-shortened 108-game season. Votto would be the fourth player in the franchise's history to start at least 162 games. Rose did it 1965, '74 (163 games) and '75, with Leo Cardenas doing it in '64 (also 163 games) and Vada Pinson in '63.
Despite playing for a last-place club, Votto is a legitimate contender for the National League Most Valuable Player Award. He previously won the honor in 2010.
Votto entered the day the Major League leader in on-base percentage and walks and first in the NL in OPS. He also came in ranked third in the NL in batting average and tied for third in home runs.
"Really what you do is you talk to the players, guys passed the eye test," Price said of whether Votto needed any rest. "Also, he's in a situation where he's just played really well. He's never looked like he's needed a break. He knows himself. He's as prepared as anybody. He'll know. He knows when he has to go out there and take five ground balls or 50, if he needs to hit on the field or if he needs to do a pregame routine in the cage. Those are all things he manages extremely well, better than anyone else on our club."
Through 160 games, Votto is batting .321/.455/.578 with 36 homers and 100 RBIs. In the Reds' 5-4 loss to the Cubs on Friday, he was 2-for-4 with a double in the fourth inning that provided Cincinnati with the first hit of the game vs. Jose Quintana. In the fifth, he rocketed a line drive off the glove of second baseman Tommy La Stella for an RBI single that gave the Reds a 4-2 lead.
Others will still get breaks over the final weekend of games. For example, Billy Hamilton didn't start on Friday, while Phillip Ervin led off and played center field. Price felt more comfortable using alternate lineups since the Cubs have already secured the NL Central title.
"We don't have any influence on Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cubs or anybody," Price said. "It gives me an opportunity to give these guys that have been biding their time to get in there and play a little bit."
Votto, 34, has the veteran status that has earned him the right to play every game if he wants.
"You've got to respect that," Price said. "I manage the team, but you have players that built some sweat equity and earn that right to have a stronger voice than some others. He's been great. It's been a very easy relationship."