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Votto cheered as Reds lose to minor leaguers 2-1

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CINCINNATI (AP)

Sean Marshall made another scoreless appearance. Joey Votto got the loudest cheers and got through the game unscathed.

The Cincinnati Reds ended their spring training feeling upbeat about their two unresolved matters.

Marshall got the final out in a 2-1 loss to Reds minor leaguers on Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park, a final touch to his impressive spring. The left-hander didn't allow a run in his last nine outings, allowing only five hits in 9 1-3 innings.

More than any other newcomer, Marshall will make an imprint on the season. The Reds got him in a trade with the Cubs to bolster their eighth-inning options. When closer Ryan Madson tore a ligament in his pitching elbow last month, Marshall became first in line for the role.

''Sean is my first option,'' manager Dusty Baker said Tuesday. ''Hopefully that goes well. If it doesn't over an extended period of time, we'll try something else. It's not a pleasant situation, but it's the situation we have. It's a little bit nerve-racking, but we'll do what we can.''

The other unresolved matter is a new contract for Votto, who had a very busy first day back in Cincinnati.

The first baseman appeared at a grocery store in northern Kentucky to promote his new cereal - ''VottO's'' - while his agent worked out details of a deal that would be the biggest in team history. It could be completed on Wednesday, a day before Cincinnati's season opener against Miami.

Votto sidestepped questions about the new deal. General manager Walt Jocketty raised both hands when questioned about it.

''Not talking about it until it's finished,'' Jocketty said.

Former Reds infielder Doug Flynn did interviews on the field during batting practice, giving the 12,774 fans who bought reduced-rate tickets a glimpse into what the players were thinking. He knew whose brain they wanted to pick.

''Maybe I'll go up to Votto and say, `Anything going on in your life?''' Flynn mused.

Votto got the loudest ovation during player introductions. He played four innings, grounded out and walked, then was caught stealing.

The game was called after seven innings, completed in an hour and 42 minutes. All the runs scored off homers - typical for the ballpark.

Donald Lutz, an outfielder who played at Class A Dayton last season, had a pair of hits off Mike Leake, including a two-run homer. Shortstop Zack Cozart homered for the Reds.

It was the first time the Reds played their minor leaguers at Great American to finish spring training. They brought them along on the flight from Arizona on Monday evening.

''When I was in their shoes, I didn't get to come here and see the locker room and take batting practice on the field, which is awesome,'' Cozart said. ''Last night, you could tell a lot of the guys were pumped to get here and were in awe of everything.''

Reds players liked the opportunity to play a game at Great American before opening day, getting used to the field and the conditions again.

''I like it a lot,'' said Leake, who gave up four hits in four innings. ''I think it benefits everybody. It's a good idea to play a game here every year, just to get used to it. The fields and the air definitely are different over there.''

NOTES: The Reds claimed RHP Alfredo Simon off waivers from Baltimore on Tuesday. The 30-year-old pitcher split time between the rotation and bullpen last season, going 4-9 with a 4.90 ERA. The Reds are looking for help with their depleted bullpen. ... It was the third exhibition played at Great American. The Reds played two against the Indians - and lost them both - before the ballpark opened for the 2003 season. ... Both teams used a designated hitter for the game.

Tagged: Reds, Sean Marshall, Joey Votto

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