A major concern going into the Cincinnati Reds' training camp was Joey Votto's left knee. Votto had two surgeries and missed 50 games after injuring the joint last year. He did not hit a home run after returning.
The knee was strong enough early in spring that Votto decided to play for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic.
What convinced Votto?
"Just games ... I needed the games," he said. "I wanted to make sure my knee was heading in the right direction. I feel I can comfortably play. I had never been hurt. I needed a little bit more of a grace period to make sure I'm ready for the Reds and my primary commitment to be part of championship team for 2013."
Votto wrestled with the decision to play in the WBC.
"I'm sorry to any fans if this affected their plans in any way," he said. "I know I have some former coaches that I'm close with that cancelled the trip because of my uncertainty. If anybody cancelled their trip, I'm sorry."
Votto says he expects to play some first base as well as designated hitter for the Canadian team.
Votto said the Reds, from CEO Bob Castellini on down, supported his choice.
"If he's OK, I'm for his decision," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "If he's not OK, he's not going to say he's OK."
Baker knows the pressure Votto was under to play.
"Joey is the top man in Canada as far as baseball is concerned," Baker said. "He's a national treasure. You want to be able to always go home. ... Joey's the main man in his country. If he was older, maybe the next time, if you've got more aches and pains, maybe he'd get a pardon."