Notes: Defense taking center stage

Notes: Defense taking center stage

CINCINNATI -- The Reds wanted to keep nice and quiet about their eight-game errorless streak entering Friday night's game against the Astros.

Oh, sure, they knew they were the last team in the Majors to have not put any notches in the "E" column, but they just didn't want to talk about it.

And for good reason.

"Because that's when something happens," shortstop Rich Aurilia said before the game. "After it's over, we'll talk about it all you want."

Even saying that little must have been saying too much, because the first Reds error came bright and early in Friday's game. A routine ground ball to pitcher Paul Wilson became an error when Wilson's throw to first baseman Sean Casey was off-target.

That gaffe ended the second-longest errorless streak to open a season in Major League history. Only two teams -- the 1983 Pirates and the 2004 Rockies -- went longer (nine games, to be exact) without an error to open the year.

That first miscue aside, the Reds are pretty pleased with how the defense has gelled with the additions of Joe Randa at third base and Aurilia at short.

Randa credited the pitching staff with making the lives of the defense easier.

"It revolves around your pitching and your pitching counts on your defense," Randa said. "The more our pitchers throw strikes and hit their spots and stay to their game plan of what we think they're going to do to these hitters, the easier it is for us to get in position."

By sticking to the game plan of pitching to contact and forcing ground balls, the Reds have turned 10 double plays in the first eight games.

And even with the variations of having Felipe Lopez fill in at short and Ryan Freel fill in at second base, the defense has stayed on track.

"We've had a lot of different guys contribute in the infield," Randa said. "But the bottom line is, when you're on the same page with the pitcher, it's easier to win. Our pitching and defense are going to win this year, not our hitting."

Ortiz update: Right-hander Ramon Ortiz has been receiving treatment on his strained right groin the past couple days, and is expected to throw a bullpen session Saturday.

The Reds are still unsure whether Ortiz will be ready to make his start Monday against the Cubs, which would have been his regularly scheduled date to pitch.

For now, right-hander Matt Belisle, who filled in admirably for the injured Ortiz on Wednesday in St. Louis, is penciled in to make Monday's start.

Left-hander Brandon Claussen is still expected to start Tuesday's game, and manager Dave Miley said Claussen might be used out of the bullpen on Friday or Saturday. Belisle, on the other hand, is unavailable until Monday because of the workload he had against the Cardinals.

Even if Ortiz is unable to go Monday or Tuesday, he could potentially pitch Wednesday against the Pirates, pushing Paul Wilson's turn back a day.

Confused? So are the Reds. They basically have to take a wait-and-see approach with Ortiz this weekend.

"[Head athletic trainer] Mark Mann could walk through that door and say Ortiz is ready for Monday or Tuesday," Miley said. "So I don't know."

Flu bug hits again: The flu bug that went around the Reds clubhouse during Spring Training appears to have reared its ugly head on the team again.

Miley, Jacob Cruz and Austin Kearns were among those on the team feeling the effects of the bug Friday.

"We're not the only team to have it," Miley said. "I guess a few others have been getting beat up by it."

Ticket programs for kids: Sean Casey and Danny Graves once again are participating in programs in which complimentary tickets will be given away to young Reds fans.

At each Saturday game at Great American Ball Park, Casey will give 24 kids and their chaperones the opportunity to enjoy games in center-field seats as part of his "Casey's Crew" program.

Non-profit organizations that serve the needs of underprivileged children interested in participating can submit a letter of consideration at least three weeks in advance to:

Cincinnati Reds
Attn: Casey's Crew
100 Main St.
Cincinnati, OH 45202

At each Sunday home game, 20 Little Leaguers and their coaches will take in the game from seats near the Reds bullpen as part of Graves' "Gravy's Train" ticket program.

Youth baseball programs that serve the needs of underprivileged kids interested in participating in Graves' program can submit a letter of consideration at least three weeks in advance to:

Cincinnati Reds
Attn: Gravy's Train
100 Main St.
Cincinnati, OH 45202

Down on the farm: Triple-A Louisville beat Pawtucket, 1-0, on Thursday, with starting right-hander Elizardo Ramirez allowing just four hits and no walks in seven scoreless innings. In 14 innings this season, Ramirez has yet to allow a run or a walk. Rob Stratton went 2-for-3 in Thursday's win. ... Class A Sarasota fell, 6-4, to Lakeland, with right-hander Bobby Basham taking the loss. Travis Chapman went 2-for-5 with two RBIs in the defeat. ... Class A Dayton lost 5-3 to West Michigan. Right-hander David Farfan took the loss in relief. Making the start for the Dragons in Friday night's game against Fort Wayne is right-hander Homer Bailey, the Reds' No. 1 pick last year. This will be Bailey's first start of the season.

On deck: The Reds continue their three-game weekend home series against the Astros with a 1:15 p.m. ET game Saturday. Left-hander Eric Milton (1-1, 7.45 ERA) will make the start against Houston left-hander Andy Pettitte (0-0, 3.18).

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.