CINCINNATI — There are those who don’t believe in coincidences, particularly every detective on every cop show ever produced.
So is it coincidence or is it not that a shift in the Cincinnati Reds batting order has turned first baseman Joey Votto into a baseball blow torch.
On Friday, Votto was batting in the No. 3 spot in the batting order, home sweet home for him for as long as anybody can remember. But the team was struggling to score runs, losing five of their first eight losses by one run.
And Votto was not driving in runs, was not hitting for power.
New manager Bryan Price figured it was time for drastic measures, something most fans believed he would never do. He moved Votto to the No. 2 spot in the order.
So Price provided the new-look batting order for Saturday’s game and suddenly the offense shifted into a higher gear and Votto became the terror he was in 2010 when he was National League Most Valuable player.
The Reds have won three of their last five. Votto? He is 8 for 17 with two doubles, three home runs, four walks, seven RBI and six runs scored, a one-man offensive ogre
Price’s reasoning for the move is as solid as a granite table top, with a tinge of desperation.
"We’re trying to create some newness to our lineup and maybe it is no other reason than we need some newness," he said. "We’re trying to get more guys on base in the middle of the lineup."
And here is what Reds’ have to like about their new manager’s boldness.
"We got off to a slow start (4-8) and I don’t feel that a sit-on-my-hands attitude is the approach to get things turned around," he said. "We have an outstanding group here but we hadn’t hit on all cylinders, so we needed to try something different."
Price said he talked to Votto, who said early Saturday morning that he is fine with the move because, "I haven’t exactly been productive. Wherever he wants me, whatever he wants me to do, is fine with me." Said Price, "I’ve talked to Joey and I don’t think anyone is disgruntled by going from third to second in the order. Joey understands it.
"Joey and I had a great conversation during spring training and he expressed a willingness to do whatever is best for the club," said Price. "It is a necessary part of what we’re trying to do here for guys to be selfless, do whatever the club needs to win. Right now we need to shake some things up, make some changes, try to find a way to take a great group of baseball players and actually start to play up to our ability.
At the time of the move, Price said "I don’t know if it will make a huge difference, but I think it can. I just felt like sitting on my hands would not make a difference."
Price said he thought about the change when the Reds were in New York last week and he said, "It really didn’t come down to how we started, although if we had been a bit more dynamic offensively it wouldn’t have necessitated a change. But we’ve gotten off to a slow start with the bats. We’re losing games by a run (five one-run losses). There are no messages being sent. It is just trying to be creative in what we’re doing.
"More than anything, rolling out the same philosophy and going down the same road that we’ve gone for a while just doesn’t resonate with me," said Price. "I want us to perform better and score more runs. I’m willing to do what it takes, take chances with the lineup, do what it takes to spur the offense. Our lineup isn’t going to be cemented in one place. You can’t expect things to turn around on their own."
So Price’s first major move, a bold and possible controversial one, is turning out to be a stroke of genius.
Votto hit an important two-run home run Tuesday in a 7-5 win over the Pirates and hit another two-run home run Wednesday that pushed a 1-0 Reds lead into a 3-0 lead in a game they won over the Pirates by 4-0.