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Votto to play in WBC

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — Reds first baseman Joey Votto will go ahead and play for Canada in the World Baseball Classic, pleased with the way his knee has handled the first two weeks of spring training.

Votto got the last spot on Canada’s team, but wanted to waited to see how his left knee felt before making a commitment. He had surgery to repair torn cartilage last season, missed 48 games and wasn’t at full strength when he returned for the end of last season.

So far, his knee has felt fine. He even hit a home run last week, something he hadn’t done since June 24 because he couldn’t push off the knee after the. He played in eight of the Reds’ first 11 exhibition games, going 6 for 16 with one homer and two doubles.

Votto grew up near Toronto and played for Canada in the 2009 WBC. He has received the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award each of the last three seasons.

“I look forward to playing for the team,” Votto said. “I look forward to being part of tournament. I had a great time last time. I never got to play in the Olympics. This is the next best thing.”

The only thing holding him back was the uncertainty over his knee. He didn’t want the WBC to get in the way of getting ready for the season.

“I wanted to make sure that I was ready for the Reds and my primary commitment, and to prepare to be a part of a championship team in 2013,” Votto said.

The NL’s 2010 MVP expects to be a designated hitter for Canada and split time with Minnesota’s Justin Morneau at first base.

“I’d imagine I’ll share time with another Most Valuable Player,” Votto said.

Votto reached his decision on Monday after talking to Reds owner Bob Castellini, general manager Walt Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker, who supported the move. The Reds blocked starter Johnny Cueto from pitching in the WBC because he was coming off an injury.

“If he’s OK, I’m all for it,” Baker said. “If he’s not OK, he’s not going to say he’s OK. The way I look at it, Joey is like a national treasure. You want to be able to always go home. Joey’s the main man.”

Votto batted .556 for Canada during the WBC in 2009.

“I had a great time in Toronto in 2009,” Votto said. “I hope we have a better time and do some winning.”

The Canadian team was eliminated after two games in 2009, but Votto doesn’t think that it makes a difference in this year’s Classic.

“I would imagine with the two straight losses, the Canadian baseball people were a little embarrassed,” Votto said. “I know I was pretty disappointed but we’re playing good competition. You do the best you can. I don’t care about the past tournament. I’m just going to try to play well and help my team win the tournament.”

Canada opens against Italy on March 8 and will play the U.S. two days later.