Joey Votto is determined to be a power hitter again.
“I want to get back to being dangerous,” Votto said Sunday from the Cincinnati Reds’ spring training complex in Goodyear, Ariz.
Besides, guys who crush the ball into the seats and punctuate it with a bat flip are just more fun to watch, the 37-year-old first baseman said. And he’s still all about the fun.
Votto hasn’t been the same — or had a great deal of fun – since 2017 when he hit 36 homers, drove in 100 runs and led the National League in walks (134), on-base percentage (.454) and on-base-plus slugging percentage (1.032).
Longevity in major league baseball is exceedingly difficult and sometimes requires reinvention. Votto said he tried too hard to be a different kind of hitter in order to be a tougher out as he reached his mid-30s, straying from what got him there in the first place.
“I lost some of my strengths that I first came to the league with — hitting the ball all over the field with power, being difficult to defend,” Votto said. “I did that in exchange for command of the strike zone, putting the ball in play, being a tough at-bat. And it zapped my power.”
Votto made adjustments after a three-game absence, standing taller at the plate, swinging away, tried to hit the ball harder and be OK with striking out more. Over the last 29 games he hit .258 with eight home runs, 14 RBI and 21 runs. His resurgence coincided with a hot streak for the Reds, who got into the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.
“I’m back to kind of a more comfortable place in terms of hitting,” said Votto, who will make $25 million US this season as part of a 12-year, $251.5-million contract. “Of course, it’s going to come with some more swings and misses and of course strikeouts, but as long as I’m productive and as long as I’m dangerous at the plate, it’ll pay itself off. I have to remind myself that at the core, you know, that’s who I am.
“I feel healthy, I feel strong, and I’m looking forward to taking some of the adjustments I made from last year and some of the good performance and carrying that — or more – into 2021.”
Tatis Jr: ‘I want to build by legacy in San Diego’
The contract options for electrifying shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. included year-to-year, a multi-year deal that bought out a year or two of his free agency or a contract in which the youngster was with the Padres for likely the rest of his career.
“In typical Tatis fashion, his only real comment was, ‘Why not my whole career?”‘ San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller said Monday in announcing the two sides had finalized Tatis’ 14-year, $340-million deal, the longest in baseball history.
“I want to be able to stay on one team and build my legacy over here in San Diego,” added the 22-year-old Tatis, who had been eligible for salary arbitration after this season and for free agency after the 2024 campaign.
Tatis has hit .301 with 39 home runs, 98 RBI and 27 stolen bases in 143 games. The length of his contract exceeds the 13-year, $325-million agreement in November 2014 between Miami and Giancarlo Stanton, who
was traded to the New York Yankees in December 2017, and the 13-year, $330-million pact ahead of the 2019 season between Bryce Harper and Philadelphia.
Mariners doing damage control with players
Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais are doing damage control with players who were directly mentioned or referenced by former team CEO Kevin Mather in an online video that led to his resignation.
The video posted over the weekend showed Mather expressing his views of the club’s organizational strategy and making controversial remarks about players during a recent online event. Mather admitted the team was possibly manipulating service time for top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert. Mather also divulged information about contract negotiations with Kelenic and pitcher James Paxton and called veteran Kyle Seager “overpaid.”
Mather also took insensitive shots at a former all-star from Japan and a top prospect from the Dominican Republic for their English skills. He also admitted the team may be manipulating service time for some of its young players.
Mather apologized Sunday and then abruptly resigned the next day, but not before casting a pall over the organization as it began full squad workouts in Arizona.
Shaw returns to Brewers after 1 year with Jays
Travis Shaw is back in Milwaukee to give the Brewers one more option for their unsettled situation at third base.
The Brewers announced on Tuesday Shaw had signed a minor league contract that includes an invitation to major league camp.
He had 31 homers, 101 runs batted in and .862 on-base-plus slugging percentage in 2017. Shaw followed with 32 homers, 86 RBI and .825 OPS in 2018. But he tailed off dramatically in 2019, hitting just .157 with a .281 on-base percentage, .270 slugging percentage, seven home runs and 16 RBI in 86 games.
When the Brewers declined to offer him a contract after the 2019 season, Shaw spent 2020 with the Toronto Blue Jays and hit .239 with a .306 OBP, six homers, 17 RBI and .717 OPS in 50 games.