AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Votto shared time with Scott Hatteberg to start the 2008 season, but after an .880 OPS in April and a .913 mark in May, the club decided the job was his alone. Votto hit 10 home runs in the season's first two months, but managed just three combined in June and July, posting an OPS below .700 in each month.
Now the 24-year-old lefty is hot again. He hit .382 in August, producing three-hit games in bunches. Votto is owned in barely 70 percent of ESPN leagues, but he looks like a mixed-league mainstay in the making.
In a September 2007 trial, Votto hit .321 BA/.360 OBP/.548 SLG with four home runs in 84 at-bats. Scouts praise his strong wrists, and while Votto offers solid bat speed and line-drive power to all fields, he doesn't project as a big home run threat. The issue isn't natural strength, but rather lack of loft in a swing that produces 50 percent ground balls.
This season, Votto has shown growth in both his contact ability and walk rate. He's just a 20-home run hitter right now, but with his .300 potential, that will be more than enough to keep him employed in mixed leagues. Whether he becomes a star instead of merely a solid regular will depend on further power development. Votto's fly ball rate should be watched carefully for signs of increase because a little improvement in the power department could turn him into a serious force. Votto is looking more and more like he will be a .300 hitter in the majors. He has a solid .302/.364/.480 line versus right-handers, and at .275/.350/.437, he's holding his own against lefties as well. If he can tap into the powers of Great American Ballpark, which increases home runs by left-handed hitters by 28 percent, he could be a steady .300-30-100 guy in a few years.
Closer Bobby Jenks recorded more than three outs for a save for the first time since 2005 as the White Sox regained sole possession of the American League Central division lead with a 4-2 win at Cleveland. Javier Vazquez allowed two runs in six innings for his 11th win. Boston first baseman Kevin Youkilis missed his second straight start with back spasms. He's still day-to-day. Rangers starter Dustin Nippert outdueled Seattle's Felix Hernandez with seven scoreless innings. Frank Francisco finished the 1-0 Texas win for his fourth save. Mark Teixeira was limited to DH duties Wednesday due to a bruised hand suffered fielding a grounder in Tuesday's game. Tex was one of three Angels with three hits, but Los Angeles dropped a 9-6 decision at Detroit, as Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco provided three hits of their own. Minnesota outfielder Delmon Young didn't start due to an ankle injury, but he delivered a pinch-hit double in the seventh inning. Starters Nick Blackburn and A.J. Burnett each pitched 6 2/3 effective innings, with the Blue Jays winning in extra frames. Yankees starter Carl Pavano made it through only four innings in his third start since returning from surgery, but New York jumped on Tampa starter Edwin Jackson in an 8-4 win highlighted by the first official use of instant replay on Alex Rodriguez's home run. Rays catcher Dioner Navarro returned to action after missing several games with hamstring issues. Braves third baseman Chipper Jones missed Wednesday's loss at Florida with a twisted knee. Yunel Escobar departed in the fourth inning with a shoulder injury. As Matt Lindstrom had worked four of the past five days, Joe Nelson was called upon in the ninth and recorded his first save of the year. Mets left-hander Oliver Perez continued his strong second half by beating the slumping Brewers with 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball. Perez sports a 2.92 ERA in 10 starts since the All-Star break and hasn't allowed more than four runs since June 24. Milwaukee right-hander Dave Bush took the loss, allowing more than three runs for the first time since July. Barry Zito was impressive for eight innings in Coors Field as the Giants blasted the Rockies. Newly recalled outfielder Nate Schierholtz had four hits in the 9-2 win. New Cardinals closer Chris Perez blew his third save -- wasting six shutout innings from Kyle Lohse -- when the Diamondbacks rallied with two ninth-inning runs. Reds starter Edinson Volquez struck out 13 Pirates in a 6-5 Cincinnati loss. Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf, acquired from the Yankees in the Xavier Nady trade, allowed three earned runs in six innings in his Pittsburgh debut. Pirates second baseman Freddy Sanchez returned to action after having an MRI on his ailing shoulder Tuesday. Double-play partner Jack Wilson remains out with a bruised finger. Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman recorded his eighth straight multihit game, a new franchise record. Astros veteran Randy Wolf hurled a shutout against the Cubs, striking out eight. Houston third baseman Ty Wigginton hit his sixth home run in the past eight games. Casey Blake hit his third home run in four games as the Dodgers roughed up Padres prospect Wade LeBlanc in his major league debut. Juan Pierre didn't play due to a strained back suffered Tuesday.
Ryan Howard, Phillies
He extended his major league lead in homers as he hit Nos. 38 and 39 and added four RBIs in the loss to the Nats. Despite the 39 homers and 119 RBIs, Howard is hitting just .236.
Jose Arredondo, Angels
He got saddled with the loss, allowing two runs and three hits in one inning against the Tigers. Since Aug. 1, he's 3-2 with just two of his 13 holds this season and all six of his blown saves.
Boston third baseman Mike Lowell, on the shelf since mid-August with a strained oblique, took bating practice Wednesday and is expected to come off the disabled list Friday. Angels right-hander Jered Weaver will have his scheduled Friday start moved back to Monday after cutting his hand on a dugout bench. Dustin Moseley will make a spot start Friday. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria ran the bases before Wednesday's game, but is still being held out of batting practice. Wednesday's Oakland-Kansas City game was postponed by rain and will be made up in a Thursday doubleheader. Mets closer Billy Wagner looked sharp in a 36-pitch bullpen session Wednesday. He'll throw again Friday, but there's still no timetable for his return. The Phillies are skipping Kyle Kendrick's next turn in the rotation so that ace Cole Hamels can be moved up to face the Mets on Sunday. Washington's Collin Balester is having his Friday start pushed back until Tuesday due to a gluteal strain. Jason Bergman will now pitch Friday instead of Thursday, with Shairon Martis set to make his major league debut Thursday.
"I was wrong about the Yankees. I was wrong about the Indians. I was (sort of) wrong about the Astros
When you do what I do, you get used to being wrong. That doesn't mean it's fun, though. It's a lot more fun being right. So I hope you'll excuse me for basking in the glory of my rightness about instant replay. So far, at least. "
-- Rob Neyer Blog
"I think [Luis] Ayala is going to end up with double-digit saves this season, kind of easily, and he might be one of the top five save guys for all of September. How's that for a bold statement? While his overall numbers are nothing to look at, if you need saves, you have to look here. "
-- Eric Karabell Relief Efforts
• The A's activated Mike Sweeney from the disabled list. The veteran had been out since May with a knee injury; he'll now be the DH against left-handers.
• The Red Sox optioned outfielder Jonathan Van Every to Triple-A, continuing the team's trend of sacrificing bench depth to help Portland's cause in the minor league playoffs.
• Rays left-hander David Price, the first overall pick in the 2007 draft, continued to improve at Triple-A with five shutout innings against Louisville. Price has shined while advancing through three levels this year, but is finally looking human after mixed results in five Triple-A starts.
• Matt LaPorta, the can't-miss third baseman acquired by Cleveland in the CC Sabathia trade, went 4-for-5 with two home runs to lead Double-A Akron to victory in the team's playoff opener. LaPorta hit a robust .288/.402/.576 for Huntsville, with 20 homers and 23 doubles in just 302 at-bats. Since the trade, however, he's batted an anemic .233/.299/.350.