GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Seeing Reds first baseman Joey Votto struggle at the plate during Spring Training is nothing new. It's been like that since Votto first came to a big league camp. Last spring, Votto struck out in eight of his first 16 at-bats before things started to click. In 2010, the year he won the National League Most Valuable Player Award, Votto entered the final week of games batting .167. He would bat .324 during the '10 regular season with 37 home runs and 113 RBIs. This spring, Votto is batting .222, as he went 1-for-3 with a single in Friday's 6-5 win against the Indians. In 45 at-bats, he has 17 strikeouts. In his last five games, he is 6-for-16, but there are only three days remaining in camp.
"I start slow, but it's taking longer than most years," Votto said. "But it's not for a lack of work. It's not for a lack of health. It's not for a lack of being determined or focused or whatever. It's just one of those years. I feel like I am moving in the right direction. I'm motivated to have the best season of my career. I put in the work in the offseason. I put in the work during Spring Training. That was my goal and intention. A slow spring doesn't deter me from having those goals."
On Thursday, Reds manager Dusty Baker had Votto and others get at-bats in Minor League games. Votto alternated between fields to play in both a Double-A and a Triple-A game.Votto got 10 at-bats and an extended chance to get dialed in. Baker doesn't believe the 28-year-old was close to regular-season ready yet, but is not remotely concerned. "There are certain guys you know are going to hit," Baker said on Friday. "The other guys that are hitting you get concerned about if this is for real. I used to watch Steve Garvey and Ron Fairly when they were coming up. They'd hit nothing. Then Opening Day, bam! They'd get three hits." Even if Baker knows Votto is going to hit, and Votto knows he is going to hit, it doesn't make not hitting a fun experience. Votto has visibly, or audibly, been frustrated on a couple of occasions. "It's hard to hit .200, striking out half the time, without getting upset now and then," Votto said. "Even down here. I try my best to treat Spring Training like the regular season. I try to get ready like it's the regular season. "My best year of my career was the MVP year. I remember in April and a little bit in spring, I was awful. I'm just one of those players where it takes a little more time. That's just how it is. Hopefully Cincinnati fans are patient with it and are understanding and don't think all of a sudden I might have changed."