That knee was covered with a wrap and the Reds first baseman was standing with the aid of crutches on Wednesday, as he returned to the clubhouse. On Tuesday, Votto underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage.
Votto was originally injured sliding into third base on June 29 in San Francisco and missed two games, but said he re-injured the knee on Sunday while playing against the Cardinals -- promptly a talk with the medical staff and general manager Walt Jocketty followed. Seemingly aware of public sentiment that the injury could have been handled differently, and sooner, Votto disagreed.
"I was feeling great," Votto said. "Those four days off at the All-Star Game and then coming back, I was almost 85-90 percent running. Then all of a sudden, it started swelling up and it felt like I tweaked something. It felt like it felt in San Francisco. That's when I knew it was time to go in and talk some more to them. I thought it was handled perfectly. I got to play in California, play in the All-Star Game and I healed. My knee told me the truth."
Votto, 28, underwent an MRI exam on Monday that revealed the tear. If he had to do it over again, would he have gotten the MRI when he was first injured?
"No. I really wouldn't," Votto said. "All of us players, we deal with things here and there. Sometimes, you think you might need some help and then it heals. Other times, you don't think you need help and it's something serious. I was always taught to stay out of the training room, play as much as you can, and if you can play, play. For better or worse in the long run, that's going to pay off for me and for the Reds."
Votto felt he was thinking about the club when he continued to play and finish the 11-game West Coast road trip before the All-Star break. The Reds were clinging to first place against the surging Pirates and both the Giants and Dodgers were strong teams with winning records. The first opponent after the break, St. Louis, is a division rival close behind Cincinnati. The Reds' upcoming schedule is relatively forgiving with mostly sub-.500 opponents.
"I was very optimistic," Votto said. "I was hoping it was just something muscular and it turned out to be a small structural thing. Ask 100 different ballplayers, especially those that play every day, you just play. You don't gripe about it. If things get in the way and become serious and when you can't perform -- I couldn't run, I couldn't be agile and that's when I knew it was time."
The Reds cornerstone player, who was signed to a 10-year, $225 million contract extension that keeps him in Cincinnati through 2023, Votto felt that the club's medical staff acted properly throughout.
"They did all the structural tests they could and then strength tests. I passed them all," Votto said. "Nobody is at fault here."
The damage to Votto's knee was considered relatively minor and he is expected to miss three-to-four weeks. He's already begun rehabilitation, but there is no timetable for when he might advance to baseball activities.
Certainly, the Reds will miss Votto's bat and glove while he's away. The 2010 National League Most Valuable Player and a 2011 NL Gold Glove winner, Votto is batting .342 with 14 home runs and 49 RBIs with league-bests in on-base percentage (.465), walks (66) and doubles (35).
Known for his intensity and someone that rarely misses games for injuries, the first instinct would be to think Votto would have a tough time sitting out for possibly a month. But surprisingly, he's taken the situation in stride.
"I take my job pretty seriously and it's pretty stressful what I do, I find, because I ask a lot out of myself," said Votto, who played 161 games last season and 86 of the Reds' first 88 games this season. "I haven't been given very many days off during the season or last season. That's part of the gig and why I like playing so much. It's going to be nice to spend some time on the couch and relax and get to watch my teammates hopefully beat up on a bunch of different opponents."