After All-Star nod, Baker to give Votto day off

BY foxsports • July 15, 2012

CINCINNATI — It was something Dusty Baker suspected, something he sensed, about his players who participate in the All-Star game.
 
And it's one reason why All-Star first baseman Joey Votto won't be in the Cincinnati Reds lineup Monday night when the team opens a four-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
 
Baker's theory is that players who participate in the All-Star game come back a bit weary, a bit tired, and are sluggish to start the second half of the season.
 
"While the rest of the baseball world rests for four days, the All-Stars are traveling and playing. And in the game they not only want to do well but they try to turn it up a notch."
 
A quick scan of recent Reds All-Stars indicates that Baker is on to something.
 
Votto was an All-Star in 2010 and 2011. After the 2010 game, he was 3 for 20 in his first five games after the break. After the 2011 game, he was 5 for 20.
 
Outfielder Jay Bruce made the 2011 All-Star team then was 3 for 17 in his first five games afterward.
 
Second baseman Brandon Phillips was an All-star in 2010 and 2011. After the 2010 game, he was 5 for 21 in the first five games and in 2011 he was 1 for 19.
 
"I wanted to give Votto the night off Friday, the first game back from the All-Star game, and if we had been playing a lesser team I would have, but we're playing the St. Louis Cardinals and we need him."
 
But in the first two games after the break, Votto was 0 for 10 and hitless in two straight games for only the second time this season.
 
Before Sunday's game, Baker said, "I don't care what he does tonight, He won't play Monday night against the Diamondbacks. He needs a day off."
 
Now it remains to be seen if Baker can resist the temptation to try to squeeze one more game out of his first baseman. Votto had a single and a double and his leadoff walk in the eighth inning led to two runs that broke a tie and helped push the Reds to a 4-2 victory, completing a three-game sweep over the St. Louis Cardinals.
 
Most likely Votto's slight slippage is a combination of a tender knee he twisted just before the All-Star break and a touch of tiredness.
 
"I don't see the knee affecting him as much as fatigue," said Baker. "That usually happens this time of year. The knee affects his running but I don't see anything in his swing. Pitchers are throwing him a lot junk and, well, sometimes you just don't hit."
 
Baker is paying deep attention to another situation involving pitcher Johnny Cueto, scratched from Sunday's scheduled start against the St. Louis Cardinals due to a blister on his index finger.
 
Now he is scheduled for Tuesday, but the Reds staff is awaiting developments, mostly with held breath and crossed fingers.
 
"It depends on how quickly his body heals," said Baker. "Some guys seem to grow skin over night. Others don't. We're sure hoping because we don't have a back-up plan yet, haven't even discussed one.
 
"We certainly don't need him to go out there and not be able to go very long and we don't need him to go out there and try to compensate and hurt something else," Baker added. "Do you risk finding out on his throw days, which usually would be today?"
 
Cueto didn't do his bullpen work Sunday to give the finger a chance to heal. And without the throw day how much endurance will he have with his arm strength?"
 
Even without Cueto, their No. 1 pitcher, the Reds took three straight from the Cardinals, recapturing first place in the National League Central over the Pittsburgh Pirates by one game and pushing the third-place Cardinals back 4 ½ games.
 
On Saturday night, former Cardinal Ryan Ludwick hit a 10th-inning walk-off home run to give the Reds a 3-2 victory. On Sunday it was another former Cardinal, Scott Rolen, who punched a two-out two-run single to right field to break a 2-2 tie and send the Reds off the field an inning later with the sweep.


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