Cardinals open in Reds’ house

Adam Wainwright will be the starting pitcher today for the St. Louis Cardinals. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

Adam Wainwright will be the starting pitcher today for the St. Louis Cardinals. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

By Joe Kay

Associated Press

CINCINNATI – No waiting for one of the NL Central’s longstanding rivalries to resume. The Cardinals and Reds can start playing their annual game of look-who’s-in-first right from the first pitch.

The defending National League champions will open the season in Cincinnati this afternoon, only the second time in the last 20 years that they’ve squared off to start the season. It’s an appropriate beginning – the season often ends with one of those two at the top.

They’ve won four of the last five NL Central titles – two apiece – and played some of the most intense games in the division. They get back at it today with 19-game winner Adam Wainwright starting for the defending champs against Johnny Cueto, the Reds’ acey.

“I cannot wait,” Cardinals infielder Kolten Wong said.

The capacity crowd at Great American Ball Park will be there to boo catcher Yadier Molina – they still haven’t forgotten that brawl at home plate with Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips from 2010.

They’ll also be there to cheer a newcomer – speedy Billy Hamilton, who stole 13 bases in his debut last September and will be leading off this season and playing center field.

“Opening day is big in the minor leagues, but nothing like here,” Hamilton said.

Cincinnati opens the season with a major league-high eight players on the disabled list, their highest number since 2007. The list includes starter Mat Latos, closer Aroldis Chapman and catcher Devin Mesoraco.

It wasn’t a very good spring for Cincinnati. Latos tore cartilage in his left knee while throwing and had surgery the day camp opened. Chapman got hit in the forehead by a line drive and will be out for at least a month. Nobody else on the active roster has significant experience closing games I the majors, so first-year manager Bryan Price will mix and match in the ninth inning.

Not exactly encouraging.

“It seems like we have caught some bad luck,” first baseman Joey Votto said. “A lot of teams deal with this. It’s very common. I think we’re a resilient team. I think we’re deep in talent and I think we can withstand this.”

The Reds failed to catch St. Louis last season, settling for a wild card. They went to Pittsburgh and lost the one-game playoff, the third time in the last four seasons Cincinnati couldn’t get past the first round.

Dusty Baker was fired and replaced by Price, a former pitching coach who has a depleted roster as he starts his first season as a manager.

“All we can do is be optimistic going into the season,” Price said. “We can’t lower expectations or we’ll play to those expectations and not be as good as we should be.”

Wainwright went 1-3 in four starts against Cincinnati last season with a 7.77 ERA. He lasted two innings in one of those starts.

Sunday’s game

Padres 3, Dodgers 1: Seth Smith (Ole Miss) hit a tying homer leading off the eighth and Chris Denorfia singled home two runs to lead San Diego in its season opener.

MLB Schedule

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Sunday

San Diego 3, L.A. Dodgers 1

Today

Chicago Cubs (Samardzija 0-0) at Pittsburgh (Liriano 0-0), 12:05 p.m.

Washington (Strasburg 0-0) at N.Y. Mets (Gee 0-0), 12:10 p.m.

Philadelphia (Lee 0-0) at Texas (Scheppers 0-0), 1:05 p.m.

Atlanta (Teheran 0-0) at Milwaukee (Gallardo 0-0), 1:10 p.m.

St. Louis (Wainwright 0-0) at Cincinnati (Cueto 0-0), 3:10 p.m.

Colorado (De La Rosa 0-0) at Miami (Fernandez 0-0), 6:10 p.m.

San Francisco (Bumgarner 0-0) at Arizona (McCarthy 0-0), 8:40 p.m.

Tuesday

L.A. Dodgers at San Diego, 5:40 p.m.

Colorado at Miami, 6:10 p.m.

Philadelphia at Texas, 7:05 p.m.

Atlanta at Milwaukee, 7:10 p.m.

San Francisco at Arizona, 8:40 p.m.

–––––

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Today

Kansas City (Shields 0-0) at Detroit (Verlander 0-0), 12:08 p.m.

Philadelphia (Lee 0-0) at Texas (Scheppers 0-0), 1:05 p.m.

Boston (Lester 0-0) at Baltimore (Tillman 0-0), 2:05 p.m.

Minnesota (Nolasco 0-0) at Chicago White Sox (Sale 0-0), 3:10 p.m.

Toronto (Dickey 0-0) at Tampa Bay (Price 0-0), 3:10 p.m.

Cleveland (Masterson 0-0) at Oakland (Gray 0-0), 9:05 p.m.

Seattle (Hernandez 0-0) at L.A. Angels (Weaver 0-0), 9:05 p.m.

Tuesday

N.Y. Yankees at Houston, 6:10 p.m.

Toronto at Tampa Bay, 6:10 p.m.

Philadelphia at Texas, 7:05 p.m.

Cleveland at Oakland, 9:05 p.m.

Seattle at L.A. Angels, 9:05 p.m.