Joey Votto wasn’t in Friday’s starting lineup for the Reds game against Pittsburgh. He was sitting at his Great American Ball Park cubicle, wearing no team gear and with a big cardboard packing crate on the floor.
To some, the circumstances and timing – with the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline looming – might’ve added up to Cincinnati pulling off a blockbuster trade.
Well, not quite. The first baseman simply was getting an extra day of rest after traveling from St. Louis to Washington, playing in an extra-inning All-Star Game and traveling to Cincinnati. The box contained all of his All-Star swag.
“I could use a little bit of a breather,” said Votto, who entered the All-Star Game in the sixth inning as a defensive replacement and went 1-for-3 with a home run and an error.
“We have a 10-day home stand,” interim manager Jim Riggleman pointed out. “He’ll probably play the rest of the games on the home stand.”
The All-Star Game was Votto’s sixth, the most by a Canada native, but it was the first for second baseman Scooter Gennett, who hit a game-tying, two-run home run in the ninth in his only at bat, and third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who went 0-for-1 and was hit by a pitch.
“It was a great time,” said Gennett, a Lebanon native and the first Reds player to be leading the National League in hitting at the All-Star break since George Foster in 1979. “It was nice having Joey and ‘Gino’ (Suarez) there representing the Redlegs. I think we did a pretty good job.”
While Gennett savored the entire experience, he mostly enjoyed the opportunity to talk with players more extensively than just the brief conversations on the field during games – especially St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina, who usually is booed in Cincinnati.
“He’s a Hall-of-Famer,” Gennett said. “We talked and laughed about some of the things that have happened. It was good to get to pick his brain a little bit.”
Gennett found fans asking him for his autograph in the hotel elevator to be, in his word, “weird,” and he was intrigued by many of the behind-the-scenes activities, such as the extensive security.
An enduring memory will be his pinch-hit, two-run homer, an experience he described as a bit surreal.
“It was loud,” he said. “The fans were excited that we tied the game up. The cool part was many of my family members and friends were there. They were waiting for me to get in the game. I knew I was going to get to hit, but they were getting a little frustrated.”
Bailey back: Riggleman is penciling in right-handed pitcher Homer Bailey, who’s been on the disabled list since June 2 with right knee inflammation, as Cincinnati’s starter on Tuesday in the second game of a three-game series against St. Louis.
Bailey has made six starts and one relief appearance during a rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville. He allowed four hits and three walks with three strikeouts while throwing 110 pitches over seven innings on Wednesday at Rochester. He racked up 10 strikeouts in six innings against Columbus in his previous start on July 13. Riggleman took that as a hopeful sign.
“The reports were more positive on what he did,” the manager said. “It looks like he’s been able to fine-tune that putaway pitch for strike three.”
To make room for Bailey in the rotation, right-hander Sal Romano will work out of the bullpen, Riggleman said. Roman’s relief workload will determine whether he starts Wednesday’s series finale, which would at least temporarily create a six-man rotation. He made his first career major league relief appearance and just his second in seven professional seasons in the series finale on Sunday in St. Louis.
“He’s the most usable guy to come out of the bullpen,” Riggleman said. “He could pitch a couple of days and we might be able to start him in that sixth game. With the other guys, we were reluctant to do that.”
Riggleman also said right-hander Luis Castillo is scheduled to start Monday against the Cardinals. The slot previously was listed as to be announced.
Schebler close: Outfielder Scott Schebler, who went on the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday, retroactive to Sunday, with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder, feels much better, Riggleman reported
“I don’t think he’d be ready to play (Friday), but he’s close,” Riggleman said.
Phillip Ervin was recalled from Triple-A Louisville to replace Schebler on the 25-man roster.
Numbers game: Losing the last game before the All-Star break left the Reds with a 21-10 record since slipping a season-high 21 games below .500 and season-worst 17-1/2 games out of first place in the National League Central Division. If they maintain that pace over the remaining 66 games of the regular season, which is unlikely, they would go 44-22 and finish with an overall 87-75 record.
They entered the proverbial second half with an overall .448 winning percentage (43-53). Maintaining that pace would lead to a 73-89 final record, which would represent the kind of improvement over back-to-back 68-win seasons the franchise was hoping for before the season.
Votto’s goals are somewhere in between.
“Let’s get to .500 and go from there,” he said.