MIAMI -- Reds left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis returned to South Florida as a visiting player for the first time since he pitched for the Marlins from 2003-07. Dozens of reporters and photographers watched him throw a side bullpen session on Tuesday and gathered around him for an informal press conference in the Reds dugout afterward.

"It feels weird coming to the third base side," Willis said. "I was proud to be part of a great organization. They welcomed me back with open arms all the way from the guard gate at security. I have a lot of great memories here."

In a sign of his popularity, the Marlins gave Willis the task of tearing down the No. 15 on the left field wall between the fifth and sixth innings to signify that there are only 14 Marlins games left at Sun Life Stadium. The team is scheduled to open in a new ballpark in 2012.

Willis is still the Marlins' all-time leader in victories (68) and came to town tied for the franchise record in strikeouts with Marlins Tuesday starter Ricky Nolasco. While in Florida, he was the 2003 National League Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Star before hitting hard times and moving through four organizations. The Reds signed him to a Minor League deal over the winter and promoted him in July.

Because he pitched on Saturday at Pittsburgh, there was no chance that Willis would face his old team. He would have liked the chance.

"Most definitely, but I'd probably be too amped up and they'd probably kick my butt all over the field anyway," Willis said. "So that would [be] an unhappy homecoming."

Alonso gets start at first as Votto rests

MIAMI -- An extra day of rest for Reds first baseman Joey Votto on Tuesday made a homecoming for rookie Yonder Alonso even sweeter.

Doing something he often does for a player around an off day like Monday's, manager Dusty Baker did not have Votto in Tuesday's lineup vs. the Marlins. Alonso made his first start of the season at first base. He's had four previous starts in left field.

A native of Cuba, Alonso grew up in Miami and starred in college baseball for the Univ. of Miami. He was a popular person with members of his hometown media who wanted to interview Alonso.

"It's a dream come true," Alonso said of playing at home. "I've been coming here since I was eight or nine years old, watching these guys play. I've been here for the playoffs, here for the World Series, Dolphins games and Hurricane games. It's definitely an honor. It's very gratifying that I'm here now and my family can see me. Not everybody can come see me in Cincinnati."

Alonso entered the day batting .400 with one home run and four RBIs in 18 big league games this season. He doubled his RBI total in the Reds' 8-6 victory over Florida as he went 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs.

This is only the third game this season that Votto hasn't started. His last off day came on July 25 and his production thrived as a result. Since that day, Votto was batting .356 (32-for-90) with nine homers and 21 RBIs.

Baker decided to press on with the scheduled off day, even after learning that Wednesday would be a doubleheader because of Hurricane Irene's expected arrival on Thursday.

"If I had known that, I would have just given him one [game] from the doubleheader tomorrow," Baker said. "But I had already talked to him about the off-day so he could [have] two in a row. I had already talked to Yonder about getting him a day at first base, especially here in front of his family and everything. "

With doubleheader, Ondrusek's return on hold

MIAMI -- Right-handed reliever Logan Ondrusek was eligible to be activated from the 15-day disabled list before Tuesday's series opener vs. the Marlins. But the club decided to wait after learning about a doubleheader being scheduled for Wednesday.

Instead, the Reds kept left-hander Travis Wood on the roster and have Ondrusek on stand-by.

"It depends if we use Woody or not," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "If we use Woody tonight, then we would have Ondrusek tomorrow. If we use Woody in Game 1, we'll have Ondrusek for Game 2. I'm just trying to keep as much pitching as we can until something decides for us."

Ondrusek has been on the DL since Aug. 9 because of a strained right forearm.

"I explained that to [Ondrusek] what the scenarios were," Baker said. "Woody doesn't know but he can count."

Worth noting

• Outfielder Chris Heisey, on the 15-day DL because of a left oblique strain, took batting practice on the field for the first time on Tuesday.

• Third baseman Miguel Cairo batted fourth in Tuesday's lineup. It was only the third time he's batted cleanup over his career, but the second this season. He also did it on May 26 at Philadelphia. The other occasion was April 5, 2003, for the Cardinals vs. Houston.

• After being activated from the 60-day DL, right-handed reliever Jared Burton (right shoulder surgery) was optioned to Triple-A Louisville. To make room for Burton on the 40-man roster, the Reds released Minor League lefty reliever Phillippe Valiquette.