CINCINNATI -- It's been clear lately that Reds first baseman Joey Votto was running on fumes and needed a break. Manager Dusty Baker foreshadowed over the weekend one was imminent. It happened Monday for the four-game series opener vs. the Mets and knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey. For only the second time this season, Votto was not in the starting lineup. Todd Frazier played first base, while right fielder Jay Bruce took over Votto's customary third spot in the order. Votto pinch-hit in the eighth inning of Cincinnati's 4-2 loss, flying out to left field.
"You've seen Joey lately, ain't you? He's been struggling," Baker said on Monday. "Today was the day to give him off. You have to give them off sometime. You could tell by the concentration and quickness. His legs looked heavy running."In Sunday's 4-3 win over the Braves, Votto was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts and a fifth-inning walk. However, he was picked off first base. Votto, the 2010 National League MVP, hasn't hit a home run since July 8 at Milwaukee, and he entered Monday with only nine RBIs in July. He was not affording the full four-day All-Star break, since he was one of the Reds representatives at the Midsummer Classic in Phoenix. In nine games since the break, Votto is batting .212 (7-for-33) with four RBIs. In his last five games, he was 2-for-17 (.118). Overall, he is batting .315 in 100 games, with 13 homers, 59 RBIs and a league leading .425 on-base percentage. Baker told Votto to arrive at the ballpark later than usual on Monday, and the manager let him miss batting practice. "It's a day you have to eat, eat, eat, and force yourself to get your strength and energy back," Baker said.