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Baker taking it slow with Votto early this spring

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- First baseman Joey Votto was among several Reds regulars who were rested during Saturday's game against the Indians.

Reds manager Dusty Baker might temporarily lose Votto to the World Baseball Classic soon if the slugger decides to play for Canada. But Baker wasn't worried about Votto's preparation as he works his way back from a left knee injury.

"We have a long way to go. You've got seven extra games," Baker said. "It's not only Joe, I'm giving some of the other guys [a day off]. I'm playing them to progress them to Opening Day. Joey will let me know. He'll say, 'I need some more at-bats' or 'Hey man, I'm sore today and need a day off.'"

Votto missed 51 games last summer and returned less than 100 percent in September after he needed two surgeries to repair torn cartilage in his left knee. In the Cactus League opener on Friday, Votto was 2-for-3 with two hard-hit singles on the ground including one for a RBI.

"Joey comes to play and at this point knows how to get himself ready and when he feels ready," Baker said. "I don't want him ready right now. I was actually surprised how great he was yesterday."

Votto, the 2010 National League MVP, is usually a slow starter in spring games.

"You can do that when you know yourself," Baker said. "That's how Barry Bonds was."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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