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Notes: Encarnacion gets a brief rest

Notes: Encarnacion gets a brief rest

CINCINNATI -- Following a blazing hot Spring Training, third baseman Edwin Encarnacion found himself off to a 1-for-8 start and out of Thursday's starting lineup against the Pirates.

But Reds manager Jerry Narron said the rest wasn't because Encarnacion was batting .125 in eight at-bats.

"If he was 8-for-8, he probably wouldn't be out there," Narron said. "It just gives him a day. I want to get guys into games as best I can."

Rich Aurilia, who went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs while playing first base in Wednesday's 8-6 win over Chicago, started at third base Thursday.

Trying to find enough playing time for infielders Ryan Freel, Tony Womack and Aurilia will be one of Narron's challenges this season. Often, he will go with the hot hand when making out his lineup.

"For the most part we will," Narron said. "A lot of it depends on the next day's matchup, too. There are guys that wear somebody out. If it's a matchup thing for somebody, we'll do that."

Narron often protected Encarnacion during his rookie year last season by giving him days off if matchups weren't favorable or when he was scuffling from playing several days in a row. Would Narron do that again this season?

"Probably a little bit, but not as much as last year," said Narron, who planned on starting Encarnacion in the series' remaining three games.

Encarnacion managed to contribute in the game with a pinch-hit RBI single up the middle off Ian Snell with two outs in the fifth.

During the spring, Encarnacion batted .357 with six homers and 20 RBIs while reaching base in 21 of 24 exhibition games.

Welcome back: Who would have thought former Reds first baseman Sean Casey would need help navigating his way around Great American Ball Park? But that was the situation Thursday when Casey came to the stadium for the first time as a visiting player.

"I had never been over there before," said Casey, who starred for the Reds from 1998-2005 until his December trade to Pittsburgh for pitcher Dave Williams. "I walked in and asked [visiting clubhouse manger] Mark Stowe, 'Which way do I go?' That was weird. It's just weird parking in the parking lot and going to the other clubhouse."

Because of frequent meetings between the Reds and Pirates during Spring Training, Casey already came to grips about facing his old team. He also continually stays in touch with former teammates on the phone.

But this series afforded the 31-year-old a chance for some closure after his trade. He spent several minutes before the game signing autographs near the third-base seats.

"I got a chance to say hi to those guys [from the Reds] and everything," Casey said. "Now I get a chance to say hi to the fans.

"It's great to be back. For the last eight years, this has been pretty much my home. We still have our house out in Mason. My family was there and stuff. I have lots of great memories here."

Despite thin crowds because of cold and rainy conditions, Casey received a boisterous standing ovation from Reds fans before his first at-bat. He returned his appreciation by tipping his helmet before stepping into the batter's box.

Waterlogged: Because of heavy rains all afternoon, the Reds and Pirates took batting practice indoors.

The tarp covering the field was removed within an hour of first pitch, and the game still started on time.

The farm report: Four Reds Minor League affiliates -- Triple-A Louisville, Double-A Chattanooga, high Class A Sarasota and low Class A Dayton opened their 2006 seasons Thursday night.

Coming up: Eric Milton will make his first start of 2006 on Friday, when the Reds and Pirates meet at 7:10 p.m. ET. Paul Maholm is scheduled to start for Pittsburgh.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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