Votto's distinctive stance sees distinct results

* Joey Votto became only the fourth hitter in the long history of the Cincinnati Reds to reach base six times in a game while hitting a  homer. .... 2013 Top Canadians eligible for draft 2013 Canadians in the Minors  2013 Canadians in College  Letters of Intent 2012-13 Canadians at Canadian schools

By Bob Elliott

NEW YORK -- How ‘bout Joey Votto?

Six at-bats.

Six times on base Saturday in Philadelphia.

Mat Latos jumped out of his chair Monday afternoon inside the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse at Citi Field.

He took his stance in an imaginary batter’s box, as a left-handed hitter.

He pawed the carpet three times with his left foot.

He tugged on first one pant leg with his left hand, then the other.

He pointed his make-believe bat in the direction of where the pitcher would be.

And then he stood motionless.

It was a perfect 10.0 impression of Votto getting ready.

Then, Latos swung only to hear “that,” said reliever Jonathan Broxton, “was a horrible swing.”

The swing maybe, but the stance was dead-on perfect.

* * *

There have been mimics since the early impressionist age of the game.

Teammates tried to copy Babe Ruth’s home run waddle.

As kids we stood around Victoria Park in Kingston trying to emulate Dick McAuliffe’s stance.

Our fave was Dennis Lamp doing Dave Stieb as the Blue Jays stretched one day in Milwaukee in 1985 and then Lamp turning to watch the imaginary ball clear the fence. Everyone howled but Stieb.

“What’s that saying about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery?” Votto asked later at his locker.

In the 10-0 win over the Phillies Votto went 4-for-4 with a homer and two walks to become the fourth Cincinnati hitter to reach six times in one game, while hitting a homer. The others are Hall of Famer Frank Robinson in 1962 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pete Rose in 1969 against the Phillies and Sean Casey in 1999 facing the Dodgers. The Reds' history only goes back 132 seasons to the 1882 Cincinnati Red Stockings.

“Pete hit a homer, how did that happen?” said Votto. “I’ll have to ask him. He sits near the on-deck circle at our home games.”

Discussing Saturday’s romp Votto explained he’s not one to “play to the score.”

“Some guys winning or losing a lot take their foot of the gas,” Votto said. “That was Saturday, Sunday I was so angry. We lost. I was 2-for-4 and all I could think was ‘what more could I have done?’”

Ah, maybe pitch the ninth.

Given a 2-1 lead, Aroldis Chapman walked lead-off man Delmon Young on four pitches (Young’s fifth walk of the year). After picking off pinch runner Cliff Lee, Chapman gave up back-to-back homers to former Jays draft Erik Kratz (12th of his career) and Freddy Galvis (sixth),

Six times up, six times on base:

Votto singled to the left against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick in the first; drew a walk leading off the third, doubled to left leading off the fifth against Kendrick; was given an intentional walk in the sixth; singled to right against reliever B.J. Rosenberg in the eighth and came around to score to make it 5-0 and hit a two-run homer off to deep centre Chad Durbin in the ninth.

Yep, six times up, six times on base

“Actually 7-for-7,” corrected Latos, “he led off Sunday with a single. Joey is a whole different animal.”


* * *

The former MVP winner, who became Canada’s highest-paid, athlete through hard work after going undrafted in grade 12, working endless hours at coach Bob Smyth’s indoor hitting facility improving to being a second rounder by the Reds in 2002, received another honour this season.

The man whose 10-year, $225 million extension begins next season, was named The Face of MLB, an MLB Network promotion. Each team had an entry into the 30-player twitter tournament.

Check out the star power from the larger markets Votto beat: Minnesota Twins’ Joe Mauer, Jose Bautista of the Jays, New York Yankee captain Derek Jeter, Pittsburgh Pirates Andrew McCutchen and Los Angeles Dodgers Matt Kemp in the final.

“That was one of the neatest honours, fans were so sincere,” said the man with still head in the batter’s box, once he paws the dirt, tugs at his pants and points the bat.

For the three-game series in New York Votto flew in his trainer Corey Stenstrup, who he hired away from IMG in Bradenton and his mom Wendy arrived on Tuesday.


* * *

Votto’s head is as still as Paul Molitor, whose high school said could swing with a glass of water on his head and not spill a drop.

“I hate facing guys that quiet,” said Latos, 4-0, with a 2.91 ERA. “I’d rather see a guy wiggle his bat and tap his foot. Joey might look bad, on a slider away, then hit the same pitch 450 feet.

“When I was traded here from San Diego I told (GM) Walt Jocketty ‘I’m glad I don’t have to face Joey Votto any more,” I told Dusty Baker the same. I’ve even told Votto a few times.”

Votto says he’s only beginning to feel like he was a year ago when knee surgery robbed him of his power. He took a .349 average into Monday’s game against the Mets with six homers, 20 RBIs, a league-leading .473 on-base mark and 1.004 OPS.


* * *

“Every time up there he has an approach for his at-bat,” said infielder Cesar Izturis, in his 13th year, now with the Reds after playing with the Blue Jays, the Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis, Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a left-handed hitter, a right-handed hitter, a sinker baller, a guy with a good slider. He has a plan,” said Izturis. “He’s the best hitter I’ve ever played with.”

And Votto dethrones who in Izturis’ best-ever category?

“You know what, I’ve never said that before and I played with Albert Pujols in St. Louis in 2008.”


* * *

And then as he stepped in against Shaun Marcum with one out in the top of the first and a man on, he looked just like Latos hours before.

The left-handed took his stance in the batter’s box.

He pawed the dirt three times with his left foot.

He tugged on first one pant leg with his left hand, then the other.

He pointed his bat in the direction of Marcum.

And then he stood motionless.

On the 1-2 pitch he sorched a ball into the right field corner.

The ball was hit so hard first baseman Ike Davis was in the base path and the two bumped as Votto made the turn.

Right fielder Marlon Byrd threw out Votto at second.

Not so fast said first base ump Ron Kulpa, who awarded Votto second on the obstruction by Davis.

Just another award for Votto.