Joey Votto had a frustrating 2022 season ended prematurely by a rotator cuff tear in his left shoulder that required surgery in August. The Reds expressed optimism at the time of the procedure their longtime first baseman would be ready to go by Spring Training, though Votto’s still amidst his rehab.
“It’s going to take time, I’m realizing now,” Votto told 700 WLW in Cincinnati this afternoon (Twitter link). “I’m hitting off an arm and I just started hitting off a machine a little bit, but it’s not quite there. I’ve been told by people that I’m doing very well in my rehab, but there is a difference between doing well and being ready for a Major League game if that makes sense.”
Asked whether he felt he’d be ready by the start of Spring Training, the former MVP demurred. “I’d say I’m not willing to make that prediction just because I don’t know. I’ve never experienced anything like this. I try to manage my expectations, of course. I don’t know. I’m hopeful; I’m always hopeful.”
Votto expressed confidence he’d eventually get back to 100%, but he’s clearly not yet at that level. That’s not really a worrisome development at this stage. Cincinnati’s initial prognosis came with a roughly six-month recovery timetable, and Votto’s only within his fifth month. It still seems possible he’ll be ready at or near the open of exhibition play. Even if he does wind up heading into Spring Training a week or two behind schedule, getting into game shape by Opening Day should be attainable.
Needless to say, getting back to full strength will be a key starting point in what the six-time All-Star hopes is a bounceback campaign. Votto hit just .205/.319/.370 through 376 plate appearances last year. That production was eight percentage points below league average, by measure of wRC+. That’s the lowest mark of his career and only the second below-average offensive showing he’d ever had. Votto candidly admitted to 700 WLW he “didn’t play well enough to even justify a starting job,” though there’s little question the Reds will give him another shot to get back on track.
It’ll be the 17th season in Cincinnati for the career-long Red. It’s certainly possible the 2023 campaign will be his final one with the club, as he’s headed into the last guaranteed season of the $225MM extension he inked back in 2012. Votto will make $25MM next season and is due at least a $7MM buyout on a 2024 club option valued at $20MM. It’s difficult to envision Cincinnati triggering that option unless Votto turns in an excellent season, so he seems headed towards free agency a winter from now.