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'll get another grand introduction on Monday when his new team, the Los Angeles Angels , opens against the Reds.
It'll feel a bit like home."I mean, 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. Obviously there's 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. This adds even more importance to your interleague record. I point out to my team every year that it is at least 10 percent of your schedule. It's huge. Those games could mean the difference between going to the playoffs or not."
Temperatures in the 40s with occasional rain were predicted. Jered Weaver (20-5) makes his fourth straight opening day start for the Angels against Johnny Cueto (19-9), who is fully recovered from an injury to his side during the playoffs last season.
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 NL Central last season. After winning the first two playoff games in San Francisco, the Reds dropped the next three at home to the eventual World Series champions.
They've brought back the starting rotation and the back of the bullpen. Only two changes in the starting lineup: Shin-Soo Choo is playing center and batting leadoff, while Todd Frazier takes over full-time at third base, where he filled in a lot as a rookie."We look really great on paper," reliever Sam LeCure said. "We have a lot of guys coming back from last year. The acquisitions that we made - bringing (reliever Jonathan) Broxton back and bringing in Choo - we think they are going to pay huge dividends."
For Cincinnati, it's not about the first cold game in April but those chilly ones in late October. They haven't won a playoff series since 1995."I want to get to the next round of the playoffs," second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "I want to start there."
The Angels just want to get there. Unlike the Reds, they decided to spend a lot of money and make significant changes. The biggest was signing Hamilton for $125 million, adding to an already formidable lineup that includes Albert Pujols , Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout , the AL Rookie of the Year.
The Angels haven't been to the playoffs for the last three years, their longest drought since Mike Scioscia took over as manager in 2000.
It would be helpful if Pujols could have a better April this time around. He opened last season with the longest home run drought of his career, going 33 games and 139 at-bats before connecting. In the offseason, he had surgery on his right knee. He hit three homers in the spring but was bothered by a sore left foot, which has had plantar fasciitis during his career."Albert's ability to play first base (every day) is purely contingent on how his foot feels," Scioscia said. "His knee feels great right now, so it's not going to be an issue. He's a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman and he'll have enough mobility to be a defensive presence there. We're confident of that."
NOTES: The Reds made their final bullpen moves on Sunday, sending right-handed relievers Logan Ondrusek and Jose Arredondo to the minors. They chose to keep left-hander Manny Parra and right-hander Alfredo Simon . INF Cesar Izturis made the team as a backup. ... It'll be the third time in the last five years that the Reds had below-average temperatures for their opener. It was 37 degrees and rainy in 2009, 41 degrees and cloudy in 2011. ... If Weaver gets a plate appearance, he will be the first AL starter to bat on opening day since Pat Dobson (Orioles) and Mel Stottlemyre (Yankees) on April 16, 1972. ... Angels pitchers are 1 for 27 on opening day, with Andy Messersmith 's single in 1970 accounting for the only hit.
Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay
|Los Angeles Angels|
|March 22, 2013||Andrew Taylor||15-Day DL||Left labrum tear|
|March 22, 2013||Ryan Madson||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Nick Masset||15-Day DL||Recovery from right shoulder surgery|
CINCINNATI (AP) -- In a game so long that everything became blurred, catcher Chris Iannetta had one thing clearly in mind when he dug in for his final at-bat.
Don't strike out again.
He didn't. Iannetta singled with the bases loaded in the 13th inning Monday, sending the Los Angeles Angels to a 3-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in an opener that set a few records and emptied both bullpens and benches.
"Not what you script for the first day going on," said Iannetta, who caught all 13 innings.
The first interleague season opener in major league history showed what happens when first games are played in Ohio. Last year, the Blue Jays beat the Indians 7-4 in 16 innings in Cleveland, the longest opener in major league history.
This one was a fitting follow-up at the other end of the state. And Iannetta was in the middle of it.
He hit a solo homer in the third inning off Johnny Cueto , then grounded out and struck out three times, including with the bases loaded in the seventh inning to keep it tied at 1.
"It was a long day at that point," Iannetta said. "I'd had some pretty forgettable at-bats. I was just trying not to strike out."
Hoover walked two and hit Hank Conger - the Angels' final position player - to load the bases with two outs. Iannetta worked the count full, fouled off a couple pitches, then singled to left.
With that, the Reds were headed to a loss in their longest season opening game since 1975, when they beat the Dodgers 2-1 in 14 innings.
"That was a heck of an opening day game," Hoover said. "It would have been better if we'd have come out on top."
Mark Lowe pitched two innings for the win. Ernesto Frieri , the Angels' seventh pitcher, completed an impressive showing by the Angels' bullpen, which allowed only one hit over the final seven innings.
A team that sunk $125 million into acquiring outfielder Josh Hamilton to upgrade its offense pulled this one out with a bullpen that has a few questions to start the season.
"I've been hearing some mixed stories about whether that's going to be our weak point," said starter Jered Weaver , who allowed two hits in six innings and gave up a run on a wild pitch. "That's what it's going to take to win some key games."
Angels pitchers fanned 13 in all, their highest total on opening day.
Shin-Soo Choo had a solid debut at the Reds' leadoff hitter, reaching three times. He doubled in the third and came around on a ground out and Weaver's wild pitch.
The Reds also suffered their first injury of the season on the run-producing play. Left fielder Ryan Ludwick dislocated his right shoulder while sliding headfirst into third base on Weaver's wild pitch. He'll have an MRI on Tuesday to determine the severity.
"The ground was a little wet, and when I hit the ground my hand stopped," Ludwick said. "Normally, it slides with you. My shoulder popped out. This wasn't the best opening day."
The bulllpens decided an opener between two teams that think they can contend for the playoffs right from the first pitch - which was a 92 mph fastball by Cueto for a called strike.
The Angels' biggest offseason move was signing Hamilton, who had a nostalgic start to the season. He started his comeback in Cincinnati on opening day 2007 after years of drug abuse.
He got a standing ovation that day before his pinch-hit appearance in 2007, a fly out. Hamilton got another loud ovation on Monday from fans who wished he'd stayed for more than a year. Cincinnati traded him to Texas after one season.
Hamilton was 0 for 4 with a pair of walks. Albert Pujols also failed to get a hit, leaving the Rangers with nothing out of their power spots.
Nobody on the Reds looked forward to the opener more than Cueto, who strained muscles in his side on his eighth pitch in the playoff opener last year. He had to sit and watch as the Reds blew a two-game advantage and lost to the Giants in the first round, in part because his injury left the rotation in disarray.
Fully healed, the right-hander was back on his game. He gave up three hits and fanned nine, including Iannetta and pinch-hitter J.B. Shuck with the bases loaded in the seventh to keep it tied at 1.
NOTES: It was sunny and 47 degrees at the first pitch. The crowd of 43,168 was the largest at Great American Ball Park for a regular-season game. ... Joe Torre , who managed the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic, threw a ceremonial pitch to Reds 2B Brandon Phillips , who played on the team. ... Weaver became the first AL starter to bat on opening day since Pat Dobson (Orioles) and Mel Stottlemyre Sr. (Yankees) in 1972. Weaver struck out twice, leaving Angels pitchers 1 for 29 all-time on opening day. ... The 4-hour, 45-minute game was the longest opener in Angels history. ... Cueto's nine strikeouts were the most by a Reds pitcher on opening day since Mario Soto struck out 10 in 1982.