Notes: Hatteberg not conceding job
Veteran hopes to hold off prospect Votto at first base
SARASOTA, Fla. -- The question at first base is Joey Votto or Scott Hatteberg? The answer is not as automatic as you might think.Many have assumed it would be Votto, the rookie. However, Hatteberg is a veteran coming off one of his best seasons. For good reason, manager Dusty Baker wasn't ready to answer the question when asked on Thursday. "I haven't seen Votto [play]," Baker said. "I'm going on what everyone else has seen in Votto. I know Hatteberg, for years. I had him on my team as a catcher in the [Arizona] Fall League. He was a rookie and I was a rookie manager." When he was managing the Giants, Baker also saw Hatteberg play often for the A's during Interleague play. "I'm sure that helps some," Hatteberg said. "It's going to come down to an organizational decision. We're both left-handers, so it's not like splitting time will be an option." "What's Hatteberg, 38? Votto is 24," Baker said. "Votto is the future here. I've talked to Hatteberg about Votto. He thinks he's going to be heck of a player. He wasn't conceding his job, but he understands that to be part of the club, that it might be Votto's time." Last season, Hatteberg batted a career-best .310 with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs in 116 games. On a team that lacks disciplined hitters who work counts and draw walks, Hatteberg is one of the more patient people around at the plate. "I don't feel like I'm on the decline of my career," Hatteberg said. "I feel like I'm still doing pretty well. I feel good about my game. Having said that, it's out of my hands about which direction they want to go. It's a bright future for Joey. When they want to start that future, who knows?" Votto, one of the top Reds prospects, hit .294 with 22 homers and 92 RBIs at Triple-A Louisville last season. As a September callup, he had an impressive big league debut, batting .321 with four homers and 17 RBIs in 24 games while Hatteberg was out with a strained oblique muscle. It was clear Votto will have to prove himself before being handed the starting spot.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.