Joey Votto on return timetable: “I don’t think it will be too much longer.”

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There’s still no official timetable for Joey Votto’s return, but the Reds first baseman finally sounds confident that he’ll be back in the lineup fairly soon.

Here’s some of what he told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

I’ve come a long way. I feel like I can’t put day on it. But I feel like I’ve come a long way. I don’t think it will be too much longer.

Votto hasn’t played since undergoing knee surgery in mid-July and required a second “minor” surgery two weeks ago after suffering a setback. He was having an amazing season when he went down, hitting .342 with an NL-leading 1.069 OPS, yet somehow the Reds have gone 26-12 without Votto in the lineup.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.