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CINCINNATI -- Opening Day isn't just the first game of the regular season for the Reds, it's an actual holiday for the city of Cincinnati.
Founded in 1869 as baseball's first professional club, the Reds held Opening Day No. 136 on Thursday vs. the Marlins. As usual, there were no shortage of pomp and circumstance that made the day unique.
"I know how big Opening Day is here. It's larger here than any place I've been," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
Once upon a time, the Reds had the honor of playing the very first game of every season. Now the club has the privilege of getting to open every regular season at home.
Cincinnati is also the only big league city that has a venerable parade to celebrate the beginning of a season. For the 93rd time, the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade rolled from the streets of Over-the-Rhine into downtown.
Former Reds star and current ESPN broadcaster Aaron Boone served as grand marshal, and current players Mat Latos and Nick Masset also took part and rode in the back of a car toward Fountain Square.
Just before gametime, the Rosie Reds social group continued their time-honored tradition of presenting fruit baskets to both teams' managers -- Baker from the Reds and Ozzie Guillen from the Marlins.
U.S. Senator Rob Portman served as the game's honorary captain. Retiring Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis bounced a ceremonial first pitch -- but it's Opening Day, so it counted as a strike.
After the introductions of both the Reds and Marlins, there was a moment of silence to honor a former owner, the late Carl Lindner and former Red Jerry Lynch, both whom died during the offseason. The Reds also paused to remember victims of the March tornadoes that devastated parts of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
Grammy Award-winning recording artist Rodney Atkins sang the national anthem as a giant American flag shaped like the country was unfurled across the outfield.
Taking it all in was television personality and singer Nick Lachey, along with his wife Vanessa Minnillo-Lachey, an entertainment reporter. Lachey, a native Cincinnatian, has previously thrown a ceremonial first pitch at a Reds opener.
"It's literally my favorite day of the year for this city to be able to have our opener at home every year," Lachey said. "It's an unofficial holiday. The sun is shining and everyone is optimistic. Opening Day is perfect. Everyone starts at zero. There is nothing but promise. It's a good day."
Even for a veteran player of 17 seasons like Reds third baseman Scott Rolen, Opening Day remains a special time -- no matter the city where it's being held.
"It's always been a celebration time for baseball across the country," Rolen said. "Everybody fills their stadiums up, and I think people look forward to it, people get excited about it -- fans and players -- you get your nerves and butterflies and everything. Everybody is looking for their first hit and all that stuff. That's not the important stuff. You go out there and the country is looking forward to that day."
Simon in Reds' Opening Day bullpen
CINCINNATI -- Pitcher Alfredo Simon did not spend a single day at Reds camp this spring, yet finds himself on their Opening Day roster. Simon was claimed off waivers on Tuesday and will be a middle reliever out of the bullpen.
Simon pitched in four spring games for Baltimore, including two starts, and had a 7.00 ERA. In nine innings, he had two walks and five strikeouts.
"They had a lot of pitching and didn't have a spot for me," Simon said. "I had a groin injury and they put me on waivers because I didn't pitch that much in Spring Training. I knew I'd get picked up. It's business. It happens."
Simon, 30, is 8-12 lifetime with a 5.18 ERA in 78 games, including 36 starts, all with the Orioles since 2008. As a reliever last season, Simon was 1-1 with a 4.64 ERA in 21 1/3 innings over seven games.
"I'm glad to be here with the guys here," Simon said. "They're very nice. I will enjoy it here."
Bray out of setup role for now
CINCINNATI -- Reds lefty reliever Bill Bray will not have a late-inning setup role to start the season. Manager Dusty Baker felt Bray isn't sharp yet, and that he couldn't be used as much early on.
Bray missed most of the Cactus League slate because of a strained left groin. It limited him to 3 2/3 innings over four games. His ERA was 12.27 with three walks and five strikeouts.
"He's had enough to pitch, but not enough to pitch in the role we are accustomed to seeing him or with the regularity we're accustomed to seeing," Baker said Thursday. "He's still in Spring Training [mode]."
Bray not being 100 percent ready prompted Cincinnati to put Aroldis Chapman in the lefty setup role. In 2011, Bray led all Reds pitchers and tied for second in the National League with a career-high 79 appearances.
"We want to use him more in the middle vs. late right now," Baker said. "If something happens adversely and he's not sharp or whatever, you have time and innings to come back, vs. if it was in the eighth or ninth when you don't have time to rebound or come back. You hope nothing does happen. If a guy isn't as sharp as usual, you sort of have to prepare for that."
Zack Cozart was the first rookie to start at shortstop for the Reds since Frank Duffy in 1971. Davey Concepcion did it also in 1970.