The news came from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Joey Votto, the Cincinnati Reds star first baseman, stayed in Cincinnati for an MRI and a consultation with team physician Dr. Tim Kremchek rather than joining the team at the start of a six-game road trip.
The finding was that Votto has a strain in his distal quad, the part of the thigh muscles nearest to the knee. The injury is to Votto's left leg, the same one he had two surgeries on in 2012. The team will take the next few days to see how he responds to treatment and rest before making a decision about the disabled list.
The diagnosis of the Grade I strain is a positive given earlier indications of a knee problem, but it's not good either. There is very clearly an issue with his movement pattern, and the injury will affect the stable base that Votto needs in order to hit well in his manner. It could be a discrete injury, but there has to be concern that the previous knee problems have caused changes that led to a cascade injury.
In 2012, Votto had a simple meniscus tear. He had a meniscectomy and, during rehab, took things a bit too fast, leading to a need to go back in and repair the knee a second time. Votto struggled when he returned because he had a hard time finding a stable base for his swing. The extreme loss of power is certainly a worry in the short term with this latest injury.
The Reds medical staff will use all of their available modalities to help Votto, but most of this is going to be about his healing response. Votto has a tendency to be very reticent about injuries, trying to play through them until his performance has suffered, then trying to get back too quickly. If Votto shows some healing over the weekend, the Reds may try to let him come back with some restrictions. If they decide that he'd be better served by more time, they won't hesitate to push him to the DL.
With Votto's giant contract hanging over his head and potentially becoming a major issue for the Reds if his production drops, this latest knee problem is a major concern. At worst, Votto is beginning to have degenerative changes in his knee, which would likely reduce his availability and production. Votto had a major drop-off in power once he returned from surgery in 2012, and that could become permanent.
Votto has had a disappointing season, as pointed out by Cincinnati radio host Lance McAllister. Some of that may be due to the knee, especially if he has been trying to play through this. However, there's been no real sign that Votto is having problems. He's not a speed guy and has a lumbering gait when healthy, so this may have been impossible to see.
The Reds are already without Jay Bruce, who recently had knee surgery to correct a similar problem. The fact that the team has two such similar injuries in a short period of time could be coincidence, but there's also the possibility that there's an issue with the movement patterns they are using. That's unlikely given the stability in support and medical staff, but it's something I'm sure the team is checking.
While Votto is out, the team will give Neftali Soto a look, with Brayan Pena being another possibility. Neither is a fantasy option, and both are a major downgrade at the position for the Reds.
Votto shouldn't be out much longer than the 15-day minimum in the worst-case scenario, so the Reds will simply have to try to get offense elsewhere in the short term. Bryan Price, the new manager of the Reds, will have to show how adaptable he is offensively while missing his two biggest bats.