SARASOTA, Fla. -- Always with a diligent work ethic, Joey Votto has no qualms about leaving Reds Spring Training to play for his native Canada in the World Baseball Classic. Votto believes he can serve both masters -- his country and his employer. "If it was last year, I think I would have hesitated because I really didn't want to miss the opportunity of starting with the team," Votto said Tuesday. "But this year, I feel like I can get myself ready. I'm not going to skimp on any kind of preparation when I play for Team Canada. I'm going to get all of my baseball stuff ready."
Votto batted .297 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs in 151 games last season. The 25-year-old finished second in National League Rookie of the Year Award voting behind the Cubs' Geovany Soto. Final World Baseball Classic rosters will be named on Feb. 24. Team Canada, which will train at the Blue Jays' facility in Dunedin, Fla., has already told Votto that he would likely be the designated hitter since the squad also has Twins first baseman Justin Morneau -- a former American League MVP. "I'm going to take every opportunity to get my extra work in between," Votto said. "I will still be in the mind-set that it's Spring Training and I have to prepare to play for the Reds. I will be ready." The opening round of Canada's game will be played at Rogers Centre in Votto's hometown of Toronto. Last season, the Reds visited the Blue Jays, and Votto received extra media attention and had some local fans in his corner. "It will be totally different. Obviously, it will be pro-Canada," Votto said. "At the end of the day, there is nothing like playing in a game and then going home and having dinner with your family." Votto reported to Reds camp with the rest of the full squad Tuesday and participated in the first workout. He hit in a batting practice group with Jay Bruce, among others. "It went a lot better than I thought it would, to be honest with you," Votto said. "You come in the first day and wonder if your swing will be halfway decent or if you will embarrass yourself. It was fine."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.