Joey Votto is baaaaaaaaaack!

The Reds lost the game but who cares? The only thing that really mattered was that Joey Votto was playing baseball for the first time since July 5th. All eyes were on the Reds’ superstar to see for themselves if he was fully healthy or not. Everyone wants to know if we are going to get MVP Votto or Hop Along Votto this year. Early indications are looking good. Joey played three innings in the field without having a ball hit to him. There were four plays at first base and he handled them all well, including one high throw from Kris Negron that required a bit of a jump for Votto to bring it in.

Votto looked sharp at the plate as well. In the first inning he faced Royals lefty Danny Duffy and flew out to left field on the fifth pitch of the at-bat. In his second plate appearance he saw five pitches again, this time smacking a crisp liner past the diving third baseman and into left field. It was the vintage Votto approach: patience, waiting for his pitch, fouling off borderline offerings and then making solid contact to the opposite field in both at-bats. The hit came off flamethrower Wade Davis on an 82 mph changeup that followed some 95+ mph fastballs.

Perhaps the sternest test of the 250 million dollar knee came with Votto on first base. Reds newcomer Marlon Byrd hit a looping liner down the right field line. Votto sprinted around second base and was headed to third when the ball was called foul. Soon thereafter Joey had to make a quick slide into second when Byrd grounded into a double play to end the inning. I am sure the Reds loyalists in the crowd and in the dugout were watching with baited breath to see how Votto would handle the strenuous plays. He emerged unscathed and all was right with the world.

Alright Redleg Nation you can relax now. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Votto is OK!

Votto looks healthy and ready for a productive season. His first game back in action has to be considered a resounding success. It will surely quiet the whisperings that the Reds have been hiding secrets about Votto’s health from the fans. Nothing happened today that would raise suspicions that Votto is still injured. He looked healthy and made it through his three innings without any complications. I don’t know about you but this game really made me feel better about the Reds’ chances of competing for the Central Division this year. With a healthy Votto all things are possible.

OK that’s great, but what happened on the field?

The Reds pounded out 11 hits but only managed 2 runs even though one of those hits was a home run. Brennan Boesch is a man on a mission to head north to Cincinnati a month from now. He blasted a changeup from the Royals’ Louis Coleman well over the right field wall for his second home run of the pre-season. Boesch is battling for a spot as a reserve outfielder and has to be considered a strong front-runner at this point. Young catcher Chad Wallach, whom the Reds acquired in the Mat Latos trade with the Marlins, led the team with two hits. Both were singles, one of which drove in the second and final run of the game for the Reds. Other than Votto, the only other members of the Reds’ regular starting lineup to play in this game were Marlon Byrd and Devin Mesoraco. Byrd went 0-2 and Mesoraco went 0-1. Former Tiger Eugenio Suarez got one hit in two at-bats and made a sparkling play deep in the hole at shortstop. If you are hoping he emerges as a legitimate challenger to Zack Cozart you will be pleased with his performance on both sides of the ball today.

Mike Leake made his first start of the Spring, pitching two very solid innings. He allowed no hits and no walks while striking out three Royals. He was focused on perfecting his offspeed pitches in this outing, particularly his changeup. Kevin Gregg pitched the third inning and continued to underwhelm. He allowed two hits and a run to leave his preseason ERA at 9.00 in the early going. Sam LeCure allowed one hit and struck out a batter in his one inning of work.

Deja Boom!

J.J. Hoover allowed a gopherball like it was 2014 all over again. This one was hit by veteran Alex Rios, now with the Royals after playing for the Rangers the last couple years. Hoover has really good stuff and strikes out a ton of batters but has an unpleasant propensity for hanging his curveball over the heart of the plate. I still think Bryan Price and Jeff Pico will get Hoover fixed and he will end up having a good season, but I wouldn’t bet my lunch money on it.

Reliever Nate Adcock also allowed a home run in his one inning, this one off the bat of Paulo Orlando. Yeah I have never heard of him either. The 29 year old minor league lifer has an Italian name but he is a rare baseball player from Brazil.

Jumbo Diaz followed with an impressive scoreless inning. Then former Dodgers farmhand Matt Magill (acquired in the Chris Heisey trade) allowed two hits in the 8th inning but did not allow a run.

They fought the law and the law won. Stealing doesn’t pay.

The Reds seem to be making a strong effort to be aggressive on the basepaths this Spring. Maybe I should say they are making a strong effort to make a lot of extra outs on the basepaths this Spring. Both Chris Dominguez and Josh Satin were thrown out attempting to steal second base. The Reds have yet to successfully swipe a bag in 5 games. They are now 0 for 5 in stolen base attempts.

The Royals are undefeated on the Spring thus far, moving to 4-0 after today’s victory over the Reds. The Reds will play four games against the Royals in the regular season, two in each city. The Royals only won 89 games last year but won a Wild Card playoff spot and advanced all the way to the World Series before falling to the Giants.

For more on Saturday’s game and other Reds news:

Kansas City Star game review from a Royals perspective

Bryan Price won’t reveal his plans for the batting order

Enquirer game review

Rosecrans on Votto’s first game

Sheldon’s review of the game and Votto’s return

Sunday’s Game

Jason Marquis will make his second Spring start and will be facing the Seattle Mariners at the Reds’ facility in Goodyear. The game is at 4:05pm and can be heard on 700 WLW.