CINCINNATI -- Sabermetric enthusiasts and old-school baseball types debated the merits all winter about whether Reds first baseman Joey Votto should be moved up from third to the second spot in the lineup. Those who favor Votto batting second often felt the team's best hitter would have more plate appearances to get on base over the course of a season in the two-hole, especially when he hasn't been driving in runs.
In the midst of a slow start offensively, Reds manager Bryan Price made the shift Saturday to have Votto bat second vs. the Rays. The decision had less to do with advanced statistical thinking towards lineup construction, however.
"More than anything, just rolling out the same philosophy and going down the same road we've gone down for a while doesn't resonate with me," Price said. "I want us to perform better. I want us to score more runs, and I will be willing to do what it takes to take chances with the lineup and make changes that will spur the offense and get something going."
Votto was in the lineup behind leadoff man Billy Hamilton and ahead of Brandon Phillips, who had been batting second. Price first broached the idea of moving Votto in the order during Spring Training, but he has considered it more seriously since the Reds were in New York a week ago.
"Certainly if we were a little bit more dynamic offensively, it wouldn't necessitate a great deal -- if any -- [of] change," Price said. "But we've gotten off to a slow start with the bats. We're losing games by a run. We're showing some spark late in the game. We've done a really nice job against the closers but unfortunately, it's too little, too late.
"There are no messages being sent. It's just trying to be creative in what we're doing. And if we can get Billy on and in scoring position, Joey can drive him in. Brandon can drive in Joey and so on and so forth."
Votto has batted third in every game he's started since Aug. 11, 2009 -- a span of 635 straight starts in that spot. He batted second eight times during his '08 rookie season, most recently on Aug. 8, 2008.
"I think traditionally, the best hitters hit third. Some people have gone against that," said Votto, who hit his first home run of the season in the ninth inning of Friday's 2-1 loss to the Rays. "I won't mind read the motives of why I was changed. Thus far, I haven't been the most productive hitter on the team. My track record will rear its ugly face at some point. I don't really know if it makes too much of an impact overall. I think it's pretty minimal. I'm not sure if it's going to make big swings. But I think that what Bryan is doing, I fully support and I'm excited about the change."
Price appreciated Votto's willingness to do what was needed to help the team.
"It's a necessary part of what we're trying to do here -- we need guys to be selfless and do whatever the club needs to win," Price said. "And right now, we need to shake something up. We need to make some changes. We need to try to find a way to take a great group of baseball players and actually start to play to our ability.
"I don't know if this will make a huge difference. I think it can. I'm optimistic about that. I just didn't feel like sitting on my hands and doing nothing was going to make any difference, so we decided to make a change."
Latos awaits results of MRI due to right arm issues
CINCINNATI -- Following a pair of setbacks this week because of right elbow soreness, Reds starting pitcher Mat Latos underwent a MRI exam on Saturday morning. Latos was awaiting the results of the tests. Unlike previous soreness he had in Spring Training that was located in the back of the elbow, the current issue is around his forearm area.
"They think they've kind of got it pinpointed as to what it is, but they want to make 100 percent sure," Latos said.
On Tuesday, Latos was scratched from his rehab assignment start for Triple-A Louisville after he felt discomfort. On Friday, his side bullpen session was cut short for the same reason.
Latos had bone chips removed from his elbow in October, and then had misfortune at the start of Spring Training when he needed left knee surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage.
"It's frustrating to not be able to get out there and throw," Latos said. "You take care of the bone chips that were bothering me at the end of the year to be healthy and try to come back stronger this year. It seems like every time I make step forward, I take eight steps backwards. I didn't last a week coming into Spring Training without having to have surgery, which is aggravating as hell."
Healthy Broxton fills in as Reds' new closer
CINCINNATI -- Reds reliever Jonathan Broxton made a successful return from the disabled list on Friday, when he threw a scoreless ninth inning during a 2-1 loss to the Rays. Broxton issued a two-out walk and had two strikeouts. He will be the team's closer until Aroldis Chapman can return from the disabled list.
"It's great to have him back. Once we get him settled in, we'll have a little more defined idea of how the bullpen will set up in late-game situations," Reds manager Bryan Price said.
Before Broxton, who had August surgery to repair a torn flexor mass in his right forearm, setup man Sam LeCure pitched a scoreless eighth in his second appearance of the season. Price hopes to use LeCure more going forward as well.
"There were half a dozen times we had him ready to close the game if we took the lead," Price said of LeCure. "He had a lot of times getting hot and not getting in games. I felt like he was the best guy to come in at times and close the games out, and we couldn't get to him. This gives us a little better understanding on how to position our bullpen.
"Like I said going into the season, we're going to have to get to the ninth inning and then figure it out. Now I think as we get closer, Jonathan being back to regular-season strength, we can see him being more of a designated closer until Chapman gets back."
• Lefty reliever Sean Marshall (sore left shoulder) was scheduled to throw one inning in a game at extended spring in Arizona. If Marshall gets through the outing OK, he will take a couple of days off and then join Triple-A Louisville for a rehab assignment, where he'd get the chance to work in back to back games.