Hatteberg adjusting to reserve role
Veteran having difficulty coming off bench as Votto lights it up
CINCINNATI -- No Major League ballplayer, especially one coming off the best hitting season of his career, wants to be told he will be spending most of his games sitting.But this is precisely the spot veteran first baseman Scott Hatteberg finds himself, now that first base belongs to rookie Joey Votto on a full-time basis. When the season started, the two were used in a dual-lefty hitting platoon. In a recent conversation with Hatteberg, manager Dusty Baker laid out the situation. There wasn't much in the way of a formal meeting. "I want to play but this isn't a surprise," Hatteberg said on Friday. "He is the future. I'm excess. Obviously I want to play but that's not the situation. "It was 'this is how we're doing it.' It didn't shock me." It was clear that Baker had shifted more towards Votto during the Reds' recent nine-game road trip, with Votto making six starts at first to Hatteberg's two. Jeff Keppinger started at first base in one game. Votto delivered a five-RBI game, including a three-run double and two-run home run, in the Reds' 9-2 win over the Cubs on Thursday, raising his average to .351 by the end of the night. Baker has praised his improved bat speed and overall effort. "We'll still have Hattie in there sometimes, but Votto's upside potential is outstanding," Baker said. "I always liked that. It was a matter of him doing it." Playing sparingly hasn't been an easy transition for Hatteberg, who came into Friday night batting .174 (4-for-23) in 13 games. He was 0-for-4 as a pinch-hitter. Last season, Hatteberg batted a career-high .310 in 116 games. He missed most of September with an oblique injury and watched Votto succeed in his place during his first callup. "I haven't really been in this role," Hatteberg said. "I really have to really try and do a lot of stuff behind the scenes. I watch a lot of starting pitchers and relief pitchers. I try to stay strong and in shape -- a lot stuff after the games and before. It's hard."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.