Joey Votto is eligible to come off the disabled list Saturday, but the former MVP isn’t ready to return from a strained left quadriceps and there’s no official timetable yet for him to rejoin the Reds.
In fact, according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer “the Reds have been vague–perhaps deliberately so–on a timetable with Votto” and manager Bryan Price said that “the protocols moving ahead are undecided.”
There was initially fear that Votto had suffered a significant knee injury, so the quadriceps strain definitely qualified as good news, but assuming that he’ll need at least a brief minor-league rehab assignment before coming off the disabled list it seems likely that Votto is at least a couple more weeks away.
Price has decided on backup catcher Brayan Pena as the primary first baseman in Votto’s absence, which is interesting considering Pena is a career .261 hitter with minimal power, poor on-base skills, and a lifetime .662 OPS. So naturally he’s hit .367 in 10 starts at first base so far.
The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.
Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.
While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.