GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- If you want tips on playing better defense, why not find the guru with the glove among active infielders? That's exactly what Reds first baseman Joey Votto did recently. When his team played the White Sox on Sunday, Votto did not waste the chance to seek out veteran Omar Vizquel, an 11-time Gold Glove winning shortstop, and one of the best all-time fielders.
"It went well. He was really generous with his information," Votto said on Wednesday. "He's a really nice guy too. I've already spoken to Barry [Larkin] and I talk with Scott [Rolen] every now and then. "I caught Omar early while he was getting ready for the game, and he gave me five minutes of his time. He really didn't have to do that. It wasn't necessarily eye-opening, but he reiterated the same things everybody is supposed to follow -- basic fundamentals of playing the position." Votto has made great efforts to improve defensively since he broke into the Majors in 2007. He committed 10 errors in 1,071 total chances for a .991 fielding percentage last season. The Reds infield now features three Gold Glove winners in second baseman Brandon Phillips, who won one in 2008, a two-time winner in shortstop Orlando Cabrera and a seven-time winner in third baseman Scott Rolen. Votto needs one of his own to complete the set.
"I just want to fit in, keep up and hold my own," he said.Offensively, Votto has been the Reds' best hitter and the No. 3 man in the lineup the past two seasons. In 131 games in 2009, he batted .322 with 25 home runs, 84 RBIs and a .414 on-base percentage. Typical of past springs, Votto has been a slow starter offensively. Through nine games, he's batting .174 (4-for-23) with one home run and three RBIs. "I'm just starting to get my Spring Training legs," Votto said. "I am not concerned and don't feel like I'm behind, but I definitely have a lot of work to do." Votto puts in his regular work before games, but because it's still early, he's only getting two or three plate appearances per game. That will eventually ramp up and like the Vizquel encounter, the 26-year-old Votto doesn't want to fritter away chances to get better with his bat. "You have to take advantage of every one of them," Votto said of spring at-bats. "I feel like I have enough time, but I do have a sense of urgency. If I get three at-bats a day and I get 14 more games, that's really 40 more at-bats if I stay healthy. I have to make the most of them."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.