Prior to their game in Arizona Thursday night, the Cincinnati Reds announced that first baseman Joey Votto had been placed on the injured list with left shoulder discomfort. Bear in mind that Votto had surgery on that shoulder last year and the recovery from that was what kept him on the injured list to start this season.
The 39-year-old Votto has appeared in 51 games this season, hitting .200/.303/.459 (101 OPS+) with 13 homers and 33 RBI. He can't hit for average like he once did, but he still works good plate appearances, takes his fair share of walks and hits for good power (hence the slightly above average OPS).
The Reds enter play Thursday in the thick of the NL playoff race. They are virtually tied with the Cubs, both 3 1/2 games behind the Brewers in the NL Central and for the second and third wild-card spots. The Cubs are technically percentage points better, so consider the Reds in the third and final spot right now.
The Reds are just 8-12 this month, though they've won three in a row now after sweeping the reeling Angels. The Reds have seven games left on this road trip and all come against fellow NL hopefuls (the Diamondbacks and Giants).
Spencer Steer mostly manned first base until Votto returned from the injured list, but he's recently been playing a lot of third base with Elly De La Cruz taking over at shortstop and Matt McLain moving from short to second with Jonathan India injured. Fellow rookie (Steer, De La Cruz and McLain are all rookies) Christian Encarnacion-Strand has been splitting time at first base with Votto and it seems the most natural move until Votto and/or India return is to just play him there regularly instead of reconfiguring the entire infield again.
Of course, it's nice to have such defensive versatility and that gives manager David Bell some options to play with as they look to unexpectedly make the playoffs.