CHICAGO -- The projected return timetable for injured Reds first baseman Joey Votto remains uncertain, but he continues to make strides ... literally in this case.
Votto, who tore the medial meniscus in his left knee on June 29 and needed arthroscopic surgery on July 17 to repair it, is rehabbing on the road trip with the Reds and is now practicing slides.
"I know he was a little sore after sliding [Wednesday] and trying to get that muscle memory back as far as sliding," Reds manager Dusty Baker said prior to Thursday's game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. "He needed a little work on his sliding before he hurt it. We've been working on it."
Baker, who had plenty of experience with knee injuries as a player himself, said sliding is practically the last hurdle to clear for ballplayers coming back from surgeries like the one Votto had.
"That was probably the hardest obstacle to overcome was sliding and the fear of sliding, that you might get hurt again," Baker said. "That was the toughest [thing] for me, without a doubt."
The Reds have gone 16-7 since Votto left the lineup, which is impressive considering the star first baseman led the National League in doubles (36), walks (66), intentional walks (13), on-base percentage (.465) and extra-base hits (50) prior to leaving the lineup.
"He kind of tested it [Wednesday] and I guess decided not to [play against the Cubs], but we'll just continue to do what we've been doing," said Drew Stubbs, who's hit .313 with five home runs and 15 RBIs in 22 games without Votto in the lineup to help replace the lost offense. "When you're facing adversity, it's up to other guys to step
up, and we've had that so far while he's been out. We just continue to get production from guys up and down the lineup."
Still, Baker is itching to get Votto's name back in the everyday lineup.
"We'd like to get him back here [pretty soon]," Baker said. "You can go without your star for a while, just like L.A. did with [Matt Kemp], but once you start facing tough pitching and you're facing a tough pitcher, he's your equalizer against the toughest pitchers around ...
and we're about to face some tough pitching here pretty soon, so hopefully he'll be back right on time. Not that he's the savior, but I mean this guy ... he's your MVP and one of the best players in the game."