Mark Kotsay in center field: that was an interesting choice

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When the lineups came out yesterday and Mark Kotsay was listed as the Brewers’ starting center fielder, well, let’s just say that the Internet did not approve.

Yes, Nyjer Morgan was struggling and yes Kotsay has had some success against Chris Carpenter in a tiny sample size. But really? The same Mark Kotsay who played ten games in center field this year and hadn’t been a regular at that position in five years? Hurm. Carlos Gomez seemed like the more obvious choice to fill in for Morgan, especially in what figured to be a low-scoring game with two aces taking the hill. Defense kind of matters in such situations.

And the move seemed disastrous in the first inning, as Kotsay was doubled off second base by Jon Jay, killing what could have been a big inning. Jay and Kotsay teamed up in the home half of the first too, with Jay lacing one to center field and Kotsay diving for — but missing — the ball. That allowed Rafael Furcal to score from second.  Jay scored on Albert Pujols’ subsequent ground rule double. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that either Morgan or Gomez reach that ball.

The damage was mitigated somewhat when Kotsay led off the third with a first-pitch homer off Carpenter, making it a 4-3 game. Then, in the fifth, Kotsay’s heads-up base running allowed him to reach second base after drawing a walk, but that also opened up a base for the Cardinals to walk Prince Fielder and then Rickie Weeks struck out, stranding Kotsay.

The homer was nice, of course, but that first inning could have been very different had Carlos Gomez been playing center field. And given that all four of the Cardinals runs came in that first inning, it was pretty much the ballgame.  It all adds up to a decision that, if the Brewers don’t advance to the World Series, Ron Roenicke will be thinking about all winter long.

Joey Votto: “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently.”

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We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.

Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”

Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).

Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.