When the Reds announced that Joey Votto needed knee surgery and was going to miss a month, most thought the best-case scenario would be the first-place Reds treading water and hopefully keeping the Pirates and Cardinals at bay. And even that was seen as a bit optimistic.
But since the announcement on July 17, the Reds went 24-9 through Aug. 19 and saw their lead grow from 1 game in the National League Central standings to 6.5 games. At one point, the Reds won 10 in a row, and immediately following Votto’s absence the team reeled off 16 wins in 18 games. There was so much success that it wasn’t seen as a catastrophe when Votto aggravated his knee and required another surgery earlier this month that pushed his return further.
In his absence, the Reds have been fine — better than fine, even. But make no mistake, this team is better with the 2010 MVP in the lineup, and the confidence of playing so well without him and then getting him back should have nothing but positive results when he does return.
Votto says he’s still feeling some pain from the second procedure, which was done on Aug. 10. He was back on the field on Aug. 19 taking grounders, but he was not planning on joining the team for its short four-game road trip to Philadelphia.
CityBeat spoke to Votto before the Aug. 19 victory over the Cubs about watching his team, his rehab and more.
CityBeat: What’s it been like watching your team play like this while you’re gone? Are there some mixed feelings — you’ve got to be happy that your team is winning, but also it has to feel strange that you’re not a part of it?
Joey Votto: I am. I made a comment earlier that the thing that probably bothers me the most is that I’ve never, never been a part of a team’s hot streak quite like this. I never experienced it in the minor leagues or the majors. Obviously, our first few years here in Cincinnati were quite lean. To go a month where you lose probably less than 10 games is pretty special, a 10-game win streak. They said they equaled the mark from 1890, and it’s tough to watch because I know that I would have really enjoyed it had I been a part.
CB: Heck, you could have gotten 15-16 games if they had you.
JV: You never know how things work. It just can be weird sometimes during hot times. You don’t know whether you’d get in the way or help. I’m confident that you put me on a team and I’m going to make that team better, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that 10-game win streak would be as long as it was.
CB: How are you feeling now with your knee and progress?
JV: Tired of rehabbing. But I am making progress and I’m feeling better.
CB: This was your first surgery, right? Was there some trepidation going in because you’ve never had surgery?
JV: Of course, there’s some nerves before the surgery. You trust they know what they’re doing. They’ve done tens of thousands of them. There’s too many people to answer to, so that usually solves most of my concerns.
CB: The second injury, the sliding in Chicago, seemed to be a fluke, but do you worry about slowing yourself down or worrying whether it’ll happen again or coming back too soon?
JV: No. I’ll come back when I’m right. I don’t think it makes sense to come back and potentially re-injure it again.
CB: Does it make it easier when you see what the team is doing in your absence?
JV: No question. It definitely takes some pressure off of me. If we were duking it out with Pittsburgh and St. Louis for the first spot, I’d feel more pressure to come back. The way they’re playing, it gives me piece of mind that I can come back when I’m 100 percent.
CB: It’s got to be great to see what Todd Frazier’s doing in your place?
JV: Yes, it is. I’m very happy for him. I’m more happy for [Ryan] Ludwick because of what he’s been through.
CB: He seems like he’s brought a lot to this team, maybe bringing that jolt that Scott Rolen did two years ago?
JV: They’re two totally different guys. Scott has a track record.
Scott Rolen pipes in: “Right here. Be careful how you answer that question.”
JV: He has a track record.
Scott Rolen: I hear you.
JV: (continues) ... where as Ludwick was a question mark type of guy. You didn’t know what guy you were going to get. Luckily we got the guy who was an All-Star in St. Louis and hopefully he’s that guy going forward.
CONTACT C. TRENT ROSECRANS: [email protected] or @ctrent