Joey Votto targets return to Reds lineup and Toronto on Friday

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Toronto native Joey Votto knows exactly what sights he wants to see when he returns to his hometown.

"I'd like to see the centre of the baseball. And parts of the city? Somewhere around windows? Maybe the second deck? We'll see, maybe somewhere around there," said Votto, tongue firmly planted in cheek.

"That's what I'm targeting. That's what I'm most looking forward to."

Votto has been out of the Cincinnati Reds' lineup for more than two weeks with COVID-19. He expects he'll be back with the Reds on Friday, in time for Cincinnati's three-game interleague series in Toronto.

The six-time All-Star was not playing up to his usual standards when he started showing symptoms of the virus on May 3, ahead of a game against the Milwaukee Brewers. He's hitting just .122 with no home runs and three runs batted in over 22 games this season.

Votto said Wednesday that coming back from the injured list in his hometown after completing a rehab assignment with the Class A Dayton Dragons was just good timing.

"I've performed so poorly to start the season it's not something I'm comfortable with or used to," said Votto via Zoom from Dayton, Ohio. "Coming back from being on the couch or in bed for eight or nine days, I need to make sure that I'm in a good way physically or I risk injury or I risk poor performance.

"So I have to come back and perform well, and whether Toronto was backed up against that date eight or nine days or now or even further down the line, it wouldn't have made a difference."

Votto played in four games for the Dragons as he worked himself back into game shape. He saw no reason why he wouldn't be ready to play for the Reds (10-26) in Toronto.

"I mean, anything can happen, but nothing comes to mind that will keep me from from being on Friday," said Votto. "I feel well, I've been competing well."

After a disappointing 2-7 road trip, the Blue Jays (20-18) have been benefitting from the friendly confines of Rogers Centre this week.

Toronto took two of three games from the visiting Seattle Mariners backed by solid starts from pitchers Yusei Kikuchi and José Berríos on Monday and Tuesday respectively. Alek Manoah also had a strong start on Sunday in a 3-0 loss in Tampa Bay to close out the Blue Jays' road trip.

Toronto general manager Ross Atkins said his starting rotation has been performing as he hoped when he signed Kikuchi and Kevin Gausman in the off-season.

"It keeps you in every game as we've been in every game — maybe one or two that you can say we weren't — but seems like we've been in absolutely every single one of them and that starts with starting pitching," said Atkins. "That does take some pressure off the bullpen as well."

Toronto's pitching could thrive against Cincinnati, which has the second-worst run differential in Major League Baseball with minus-64 and sits last in the National League Central Division.

Hyun-jin Ryu (0-0) is scheduled to get the start for the Blue Jays on Friday and Luis Castillo (0-1) will take the mound for the Reds.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2022.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

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