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Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto, Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw exchange praise

By Alex Butler

July 12 (UPI) -- One of the best hitters in the game has tremendous respect for one of its best pitchers when it comes to Joey Votto and Clayton Kershaw.

On Monday, the Los Angeles Dodgers ace commended Votto's plate presence.

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"He doesn't take any at-bats off," Kershaw said. "Every at-bat is fully-focused, fully-intense and when you have that type of talent it's pretty special."

Votto responded on Tuesday, during an interview with MLB.com, regarding his batting stance and choking up on the bat. The Cincinnati Reds first baseman said he has four levels.

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"I'll give you my levels," Votto said.

"Hittin'. Two strike. Scared to death. Kershaw."

"That's pretty much the four levels."

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"[One] I'm ready to hit, I'm feeling good against you. [Kershaw] I'm terrifying and I'm probably not making contact. So that's the four levels."

Votto, a five-time All-Star, didn't get into the game until the eighth inning. He struck out in his first at-bat and walked in his second plate appearance.

Kershaw didn't pitch, despite remaining arguably the best pitcher in the National League. But Kershaw did provide some insight Monday about who would win the Home Run Derby.

"It's so hard to predict that stuff," he said. "Just because you can hit the ball really far doesn't mean you'll win. But usually I lean toward the young guy. A guy like Belly [Cody Bellinger]. Four minutes is a long time in that first round. I don't feel like Belly is going to get tired. Especially in that...I'm looking forward to watching him and cheering for him."

Bellinger beat Colorado Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon 15-14 in the first round of Monday's derby. He fell to New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge 13-12 in the second round. Judge went on to win the contest against Minnesota Twins star Miguel Sano.

Kershaw wasn't correct in giving his early nod to a teammate, but he was right about age being a factor.

Judge and Bellinger were the only rookies participating in the event. Bellinger was the youngest participant at 21-years-old, while Judge was the fourth-youngest at 25-years-old.

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"Just from taking batting practice I know it's not easy. These guys obviously, the skill level is way higher. Strength is God given. A lot of that stuff. In a home run derby, with a sold out crowd, no cage, it's a different atmosphere. So they probably [had] to calm the nerves a little bit I would imagine," Kershaw said.

Bellinger was 0-for-3 in Tuesday's All-Star Game. He struck out swinging to end the contest, with Votto standing on first base.

"It's an honor to get to be with these guys and get to be a part of the best players in baseball and get to be representing your team at this place. It's a special thing, for sure," Kershaw said.

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