After Votto complained of soreness following sliding drills on Wednesday, nearing the end of his original rehab schedule, another MRI was taken on Friday in Cincinnati and it revealed a loose piece of cartilage "floating" in his left knee.
Votto, who joined the club for the start of this road trip in Milwaukee and came to Chicago for the start of the series against the Cubs, had the cartilage removed on Friday by Reds medical director Dr. Timothy Kremchek.
"He was having some pain and we sent him back to get a new MRI and get re-examined," Reds head athletic trainer Paul Lessard said prior to Saturday's game at Wrigley Field. "They found basically a little chunk of cartilage floating in his knee, so [Dr. Kremchek] went in and removed it. The whole procedure only took about six minutes, so he's going to stay back in Cincinnati with the physical therapists until we get back home."
Votto originally hurt the knee on June 29 while sliding into third base in San Francisco, tearing the medial meniscus in his left knee. He left the lineup on July 16 and had the original arthroscopic surgery a day later. He was expected to be out three or four weeks from the date of the first surgery, which would've put him on pace to return no later than Tuesday's game against the Mets at Great American Ball Park.
Now, the timetable for his return must be re-adjusted. Lessard told reporters on Saturday to tack on about seven to 10 days to the original timeframe.
Reds manager Dusty Baker talked about Votto's recovery process on Thursday, prior to the discovery of the loose cartilage. At that point, Baker said sliding was the biggest hurdle for baseball players returning from any kind of knee or foot injury. Baker was hoping to get Votto back next week, in time to face some tough pitching matchups, but Saturday's news wipes that out and could potentially keep Votto out through the rest of August.
"One thing about Joey is that he knows his body," Baker said. "He's not going to say something's wrong just to say it. He's really busting to get back, and like I said, the toughest part of his rehab is going to be the sliding part. He tested it out the other day and said he was sore. I'm glad they found it when they did. They went back in the same hole that they did the first time they scoped it, so it's better [it happened] now than later."
Still, the timing isn't all that great for the first-place Reds during a tight race that's unfolding in the National League Central. Cincinnati is already playing this series without veteran third baseman Scott Rolen (day to day) because of stiffness and soreness in his lower back.
"We're in first place, but it hasn't been easy to get here and stay here with the things that have happened to Joey and [Rolen] and [Brandon Phillips]," Baker said. "If we're going to go deep [in the playoffs], we're going to need Scotty and we're going to need Joey. I'd hoped we would get Joey back pretty soon here. You can last without your star player for a while, but after a while and you're facing tough pitching, you're going to need your star player."