Bonus notes from our MLB on Fox broadcast of the Reds-Cardinals game on Saturday . . .
Reds first baseman Joey Votto never lacked confidence; even as a minor leaguer, he thought he could become one of the best players in the game.
Yet, Votto says that winning the National League MVP and Hank Aaron awards last season gave him a certain validation — and even greater inspiration.
Reds Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, a two-time MVP, told Votto, “Walk like an MVP, act like an MVP.” Those words made an impact on Votto, who is still just 27.
“Just hearing things like that, sometimes things click,” Votto said. “I was more motivated this offseason than ever. I had more energy. I worked out more days per week.”
The way Votto sees it, now that he’s reaching his potential, he does not want to sell himself short.
“I don’t want to interrupt it,” he said. “Let’s see how high a level I can play at.”
He led the NL in OPS last season and is in a virtual tie for first with the Cardinals’ Lance Berkman thus far at 1.173.
BASEBRAWL: DIFFICULT FOR A DAD TO EXPLAIN
Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter still has scars on his back from last year’s brawl with the Reds. His former catcher, Jason LaRue, retired after suffering a concussion from Reds righty Johnny Cueto kicking him in the face. But anyone who expected Carpenter to retaliate Saturday should have heard him talk about the effect of the fight on his two children, Sam, 8, and Ava, 5.
Carpenter said Ava talks about the brawl all the time, probably mentioned it five or six times during the spring, even knows Cueto’s name. As for Sam, Carpenter says, “How do you explain that to your 8-year-old son? You’re in this big, huge brawl. ‘Why is that, Daddy? Why are you fighting with everyone?’ It’s difficult to explain.”
Carpenter concludes: “It’s not what baseball is, not what baseball is about.”
REDS’ WOOD: THE SECOND COMING OF . . .
Darek Braunecker, the agent for both the Phillies’ Cliff Lee and Reds’ Travis Wood, refers to Wood as “Cliff Lee Lite.”
Both lefties are from the suburbs of Little Rock, Ark. — Lee hails from Benton, Wood from Bryant. They work out and hunt together in the offseason, share the same competitive streak.
“You would think Cliff has been cloned,” Braunecker says. “They’re so much alike, it’s uncanny.”
RAPPING OUT HITS, RAPPING WITH NELLY
The Reds’ Brandon Phillips was very excited to meet the rapper Nelly at the Reds’ team hotel on Thursday night. Nelly, a St. Louis native, was wearing his Cardinals cap, and Phillips posted a photo of the two of them on his Twitter account with the caption, “Shoutout to my boy Nelly, reps his city to the fullest.”
Phillips was thrilled that Nelly not only recognized him, but also called him one of his favorite players. Of course, Nelly also made it clear to him that while he loves Phillips as a player, he loves the Cardinals more.
One other Phillips note: His younger sister, Porsha Phillips, was a recent third-round pick of the WNBA’s San Antonio Silver Stars. Porsha, a power forward from the University of Georgia, is 6-foot-2-1/2. Brandon is a mere 6 feet.
HOLLIDAY FOR MVP?
Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday said his timing was off the first few games after he returned from his appendectomy, but it barely showed; Holliday is 19 for 51 (.373) since coming back. The White Sox’s Adam Dunn, who underwent the same procedure, is 4 for 41 (.098).
One Cardinals official says Holliday is swinging so well, he could end up the National League MVP. Holliday says he is far more comfortable in his second season with the Cardinals than he was in his first. No longer does he feel that he has to prove his worth and justify his seven-year, $120 million free-agent contract.
BIG RED HAPPY FAMILY
Rival executives admire the Reds’ depth. The camaraderie between players competing for at-bats at the same position also is impressive.
Catchers Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez are one example. Hanigan describes Hernandez as a good friend and great teammate; they even hang out together off the field.
As Hanigan spoke, it sounded as if he was almost gushing. But Hanigan said, “I’m not blowing smoke. He’s the type of the guy I hope to keep in touch with when our careers are over.”
Then there are the shortstops, Paul Janish, who is trying to establish himself as a regular, and Edgar Renteria, the reigning World Series MVP.
Renteria, unlike many older players, accepts his backup role, saying, “It’s OK. I know in baseball that things change. I’m ready for every situation.”
Renteria even has played second base for the first time, and Janish said he senses “zero hint of animosity” from the veteran.
In fact, Janish says, Renteria tries to help him any way he can.
HEEEERE’S JONNY: A WALK MACHINE
Reds left fielder Jonny Gomes ranks second only to Votto for the NL lead in walks, and attributes his dramatically improved plate discipline to playing every day.
Gomes had 571 plate appearances last season, but says he was just the hot guy in a platoon, not the “quote-unquote everyday left fielder.”
The difference, he says, is that a platoon player might not be in the lineup the next day if he goes 0 for 2 with two walks, but will be if he goes 3 for 4 with a homer.
As Gomes puts it, “You’re swinging for your life.”
THERIOT SEEING RESULTS
Cardinals shortstop Ryan Theriot worked hard on seeing more pitches in spring training, though at times it raised eyebrows with his new team.
“People looked at me sideways, thinking, ‘What’s this guy doing?’” Theriot recalls, chuckling.
Turns out that Theriot was rededicating himself as a leadoff man, and the results are evident. Theriot, prior to this season, averaged 3.67 pitches per plate appearance. Entering Sunday’s play he was up to 4.04 and he’s hitting .310.