SAN FRANCISCO -- The first day of the rest of the Reds' season began Thursday without Ken Griffey Jr. Naturally, the lineup had a different look. With Griffey finished because of a strained left groin, Buck Coats got his first start for Cincinnati and played right field. The backup outfield options had only two hits between them. Coats (1-for-9) and Jason Ellison (1-for-20) were batting a combined .069 entering Thursday. Interim manager Pete Mackanin expected to mix it up and also planned to use utility player Jeff Keppinger in right.
"We need to continue to see him in the outfield a little bit more," Mackanin said of Keppinger. "I'd like to see Ellison a little bit if I could. I know he got off to a bad showing at first, but he's a better player than he's shown." Brandon Phillips moved up from fourth to third in the lineup, with Adam Dunn, Edwin Encarnacion, Joey Votto and Javier Valentin all sliding up one spot each. Impressed with Votto during his September callup, Mackanin and hitting coach Brook Jacoby kicked around the idea of batting the rookie first baseman in Griffey's third spot or in the middle of the order. Then they thought better of it. "I think it's in his best interests and ours just to keep him out of those [pressure spots]," Mackanin said. "He's got a lot on his plate. He looks cool, calm and collected. It's funny how you put a guy in that cleanup spot, and they can't deal with it. Especially if you put him in that spot and he takes an 0-fer, then he starts thinking about it." Protest denied: Major League Baseball announced Thursday that it denied the protest filed by the Reds over Tuesday's game vs. the Cubs. General manager Wayne Krivsky pressed on with the protest Wednesday after Mackanin accused Cubs manager Lou Piniella of making an improper double-switch. Piniella had already crossed the third-base line without stopping to tell the home-plate umpire he was bringing in reliever Willie Eyre and catcher Geovany Soto in the sixth inning. "Pete did the right thing; I did the right thing by backing him up," Krivsky said. "It went to the proper people to make the decision. We respect the decision but disagree with it. We're going to move on." Crew chief Rick Reed told the Reds on Tuesday that the umpire's manual said Piniella's switch was legitimate since it was his first trip to the mound. Krivsky would not detail what he was told by MLB president Bob DuPuy, who made the ruling. "Sometimes, interpretations of rules aren't what is commonly practiced," Krivsky said. "We went through the proper channels and abide by the decision." Injury updates: Shortstop Alex Gonzalez (bone bruise in left knee) missed his eighth straight start. Mackanin was thinking about starting Gonzalez until he noticed him limping during a pinch-hitting appearance on Wednesday. Keppinger started again at shortstop. Scott Hatteberg (sore right oblique) took batting practice on Thursday. The Sweet life: Triple-A Louisville manager Rick Sweet joined the coaching staff for the four-game series in San Francisco. Sweet, who hails from Portland, Ore., would have come aboard sooner but wanted to attend his daughter's wedding. Sweet estimated he knew three-fourths of the players in the clubhouse. Many have made trips back and forth to Louisville this season. As he arrived, several players warmly greeted their former skipper. "I don't have my computer at the ballpark," said Sweet, who finished his third season at Louisville. "I don't have to do lineups. I just walk around and talk to people. I'm just going to watch a ballgame. It's nice." Sweet had some of his warmest praise for one player not with the team. Outfielder and former top pick Jay Bruce played at three levels and finished at Louisville before winning Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year Award. He batted .319 with 26 homers and 89 RBIs overall. "Jay Bruce is special," Sweet said. "I had Griffey the first year he played, and Jay Bruce is in that category in my opinion. I had Griffey when he was 18, and Jay just turned 20, but he's got the potential at the time. They're close to the same animal. Bruce spent just 16 games at Double-A Chattanooga before his promotion to Louisville. It was supposed to be a temporary stay when injuries left the Bats shorthanded. "I practically begged Wayne to have him come up in Triple-A," Sweet said. "I had two infielders in the outfield. I said, 'Let him come up for a week, because Dewayne Wise will be back in a week.' So they told him, 'You're going for one week.' [Paul] Janish was the other one. I had e-mails [from the Reds] that said in big letters 'ONE WEEK ONLY,' and they told the kids that. Jay started playing good, and Wise never got healthy." Coming up: Matt Belisle (8-9, 5.39 ERA) will start Friday's 10:15 p.m. ET game against the Giants and Patrick Misch (0-3, 2.90).
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.