Reds' Bruce, Votto ready to bounce back

USA Today Sports, Getty Images

Near the end of the Reds' lost season of 2014, Jay Bruce asked general manager Walt Jocketty if he could stop by his office for a conversation. By then, Bruce was already deep into the process of mentally preparing for 2015, having formulated his loose plans for the offseason.

He and Jocketty talked about what had gone wrong for Bruce, and for a team that opened 2014 with expectations of making the postseason. He told Jocketty that he intended to quickly resume the rehabilitation work on his surgically repaired left knee and then start his drills for the season sooner than he normally does.

Bruce followed through with everything he told Jocketty that day, and he burns for his next chance. "He is highly motivated to come back and have a good season," Jocketty said recently.

The GM senses the same about first baseman Joey Votto, who missed 100 games last season. Sean Marohn, the Reds' strength and conditioning coordinator, visited Votto several times in Toronto during the winter and reported that Votto is doing well. "I feel very good about both guys coming into camp healthy," Jocketty said.

That's crucial, because given the structure of the Reds' roster and the improvements of other teams within the National League Central, Cincinnati almost certainly cannot win without more from Bruce (who batted .217 last season with 18 homers) and Votto.