Reds manager Dusty Baker considered Votto available to pinch-hit in an emergency on Tuesday, but he is likely to start him on Wednesday.
"The plan could change every day depending on how he feels and how his body feels," Baker said. "As of right now, he will probably start [Wednesday]. Then we have to watch him if there's a long inning one way or the other, if he gets sore, if he makes a wrong move -- we're going to try to preserve him and work him back in there."
The fact that the Reds are off on Thursday was big for Baker, since it will give Votto an extra day to recover from playing. Other factors will weigh in future decisions on if Votto plays, such as if there is a day game after a night game.
"A lot of it will depend on how Joey feels and how honest he is going to be with us, which I know he will be," Baker said.
Votto has not played for the Reds since July 15. Two days later, the 28-year-old had the first of two arthroscopic surgeries to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee. His second procedure was on Aug. 10 after a setback suffered during a sliding drill.
While acknowledging that he was not yet 100 percent, physically, Votto still felt like he could play when called upon.
"I don't think I will see 100 percent until sometime during the offseason," Votto said. "I'm talking about being able to play baseball, being able to put myself in uncomfortable positions and I would like to think I would get through all the games and continue to recover as I play and move through September, and hopefully all the way to the end of October."
Votto began a rehab assignment last week at Class A Dayton, where he played three games and went 1-for-5. He played two additional games for Triple-A Louisville, including one on Monday, and was a combined 1-for-6 with a solo home run.
Even though it was a rehab assignment, Votto was disappointed with his performance during the games in the Minors. He also felt his knee wasn't tested very much with anything unexpected.
"I didn't get on base enough when I was down there," he said. "I wasn't put in enough challenging positions, but I imagine I will probably encounter a few of those here in Cincinnati and I imagine I will get through them."
The Reds went 32-16 record in Votto's absence and benefited from having players like rookie Todd Frazier and veterans Brandon Phillips and Ryan Ludwick step up with strong production. While there was no rushing by the club to get Votto back, is bringing him back at less than 100 percent a good thing?
"There are a lot of questions going into every decision. These are all very smart people making the decisions," Votto said. "I imagine that if I do happen to help the team win one extra game before the end of the season and that one extra game gets us home-field advantage all the way to the World Series, I think that the fans would be pretty happy I played."
When he left the lineup, Votto was batting .342 with 14 home runs and 49 RBIs and a league-best .465 on-base percentage.
"We're glad to have him back big time. We're a lot better with Joey Votto," Baker said. "Any time you change the equation which is player personnel, there is always an adjustment. You learned not to depend so heavily on Joey. Hopefully, we have that same mindset with Joey here."
"He really understands this game and once he's 100 percent, it's going to be a lot of fun," said Frazier, who took the bulk of starts at first base while Votto was out. "We've been having a lot of fun lately. We love Joey and we're happy to have him back. It will keep this run going, [we can] just take off and take this lead and expand it more. With Joey, we can definitely do that."
Once he does step into a batters' box for the Reds again, Votto is most anticipating something that had nothing to do with his knee. He was interested in a different type of response.
"I'm really excited to hear the fans' reaction. That's what I am most curious about," Votto said. "I miss them. I miss playing here. I love the support. And I love playing in front of the fans that come to this ballpark and cheer for the team and me."