Reds notebook: Hamilton makes his return

By ASSOCIATED PRESS  • 
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CINCINNATI — Josh Hamilton is back where it all started.

The outfielder got a standing ovation for his pinch-hit appearance at Great American Ball Park on opening day 2007, a moment that completed his comeback from years of drug abuse. He will get another grand introduction today when his new team, the Los Angeles Angels, opens against the Cincinnati Reds.

It will feel a bit like home.

“That’s where I started to learn how to be a professional,” Hamilton said. “That’s where my wife learned how to deal with fans, media, raising kids and baseball culture.

“So there will always be a special feeling (for Cincinnati). Obviously, there are a lot of memories there, just because of all my ‘firsts’ happened there — my first at-bat, hit, RBI, home run, throwing somebody out.”

Having Hamilton dig into the batter’s box will be one of the few familiar things about a most unusual opener. For the first time in major-league history, the season is starting with an interleague game.

“It is very strange,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “This usually doesn’t happen until June or July.”

Temperatures in the 40s with occasional rain are predicted for game-time. Jered Weaver (20-5) makes his fourth straight opening-day start for the Angels against Johnny Cueto (19-9).

The two teams have taken much different paths in trying to get to the playoffs. The Reds kept their roster virtually intact from the team that won 97 games and the National League Central last season. The Angels spent big in making lots of changes.

The Reds brought back the same rotation and the back of the bullpen, and made only two changes in the starting lineup: Shin-Soo Choo is playing center field and batting leadoff, and Todd Frazier takes over full time at third base.

“We look really great on paper,” reliever Sam LeCure said.

Notable

The Reds made their final bullpen moves, sending right-handed relievers Logan Ondrusek and Jose Arredondo to the minor leagues.

Ondrusek, who struggled with his control during spring training, was optioned to double-A Pensacola. Arredondo, who appeared in 66 games last season, was sent outright to triple-A Louisville. The Reds chose to keep left-hander Manny Parra, who signed a one-year, $1 million deal in February, and right-hander Alfredo Simon, who pitched in 36 games last season.

• Reliever Nick Masset went on the 15-day disabled list, continuing his recovery from shoulder surgery last September.

• The Reds designated infielder Jason Donald for assignment and selected the contract of infielder Cesar Izturis. Infielder Emmanuel Burris, catcher Corky Miller and outfielders Denis Phipps and Derrick Robinson were reassigned to minor-league camp.

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