CINCINNATI — The Joey Votto road show will begin Sunday in Rhode Island.
The Reds announced Saturday afternoon that their All-Star first baseman will start a rehab assignment with Triple-A affiliate Louisville as the Bats play against Pawtucket, Boston’s top minor league affiliate. Votto traveled on Saturday but won’t play until Sunday’s second game of a four-game series.
There still is no timetable for how long Votto will remain with Louisville and be able to rejoin the Reds.
"It’s one (game) and we’ll see," said manager Bryan Price. "I don’t like to put a lot out there only because things change and you end up regretting what you (say). It sounds like you’re making a guarantee or a promise and we can’t do that, that he’ll play one game or five games. I don’t know, but we are going to evaluate after every game and see where we are."
Votto hasn’t played since May 15 against San Diego. A MRI scan the following day showed he had a distal quadriceps strain above his left knee. Votto has been taking infield practice and batting practice but has not yet faced live pitching or played in game situations since the injury.
"He’s going to need to play in a game and play in the neighborhood of five-to-six innings and see how he holds up," said manager Bryan Price. "We want to see the durability because we want to have an understanding as best we can of the durability he has when he gets back."
The Reds have two games remaining with Philadelphia before Los Angeles comes to Great American Ball Park for four games through Thursday.
Brayan Pena, Todd Frazier, Neftali Soto (now at Louisville) and Donald Lutz have split starting duties at first base in Votto’s absence. Pena has made 12 starts there after having made just four career appearances at first base. Frazier is making his fourth start of at first base on Saturday, while Ramon Santiago takes his spot at third base. Pena is getting a rest after going hitless in his last 17 at-bats. He’s 0-for-14 on the current home stand, which coincides with his season-high nine-game hitting streak being snapped.
Frazier made a name for himself in 2012 by being a versatile utility player who made starts at four different positions, including 36 at first base while Votto was out due to two knee surgeries. Frazier had 338 chances at first base that season and committed just two errors.
Since taking over as the starter at third base, however, he hadn’t played on the opposite of the diamond until this most recent spell with Votto out of the lineup. Frazier has made nine errors this season, three of which have come in his three starts at first base.
"When you’re a utility guy, I guess you’re used to playing all different positions and you work at it a lot, not to make excuses," said Frazier prior to Saturday’s game. "I should have had all three (balls). But I haven’t been a utility guy for two years. I don’t mind playing there at all, don’t get me wrong, but it seems I always find a way to make one of them."
He had an error in the eighth inning of Friday’s 8-0 loss to Philadelphia when a ball hit Phillies’ first baseman Ryan Howard went underneath his glove and allowed two runs to score.
Frazier said he feels comfortable at first base but as an every-day player at another position the only time he works out at first base is on days he’s scheduled to play there. He ranks fifth in the National League with a .958 fielding percentage as part of a Cincinnati defense that leads all of Major League Baseball with a .988 fielding percentage and just 26 errors committed all season. He also leads the Reds with 12 home runs and 31 RBI so he is going to be in the lineup somewhere.
"I love playing third base. I like playing first," Frazier said. "I’ve grown to be a great third baseman, I think. Not to be cocky, but you have to have a little cockiness to you. I feel comfortable over there. I know where to position myself and I do a lot of work. Me and (assistant coach) Freddie Benavides go over all of the guys before every series where to position myself. We do the same thing at first base, although there’s a couple of other things you have to do. It shouldn’t be that hard."