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Marlins-Reds Preview

AP - Sports

While opening day is normally a tough ticket, Cincinnati Reds fans who miss out Thursday still have plenty of time to see Joey Votto in the future.

Votto will play for the first time since signing the longest guaranteed contract in major league history when the Reds open the season at home against the Miami Marlins, who will have Mark Buehrle make his debut with the club.

Votto agreed to a contract extension Wednesday that adds 10 years and $225 million, keeping him with the Reds through 2023 and making him the face of the franchise. The deal includes a club option for 2024.

The first baseman figures to get a warm reception during pregame introductions due to his long-term commitment.

"Is it risky?" owner Bob Castellini said. "No doubt. That's the environment we live in, especially as a small market. We feel Joe will be a cornerstone."

Votto batted .309 last season, finishing sixth in the NL with 103 RBIs and second in the majors with 110 walks.

"I always try to do my best," Votto said. "I can't promise you anything going forward. I can't promise you health or promise you production. I can promise you I'll do my best."

Votto will get his first look at a tough left-hander in Buehrle, who is making his NL debut after spending 12 years in the AL with Chicago. After going 13-9 with a 3.59 ERA last year - winning at least 10 games for the 11th consecutive season - he joined Miami to pitch under his former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, and he's eager to get his Marlins career started.

"I think everybody is going to look forward to getting on the flight and getting to Cincinnati, especially with that off day (Friday)," Buehrle said.

Buehrle is 10th among active pitchers with 161 victories, and 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA in two starts against the Reds.

The Marlins are probably excited to get out of town after a 4-1 loss to St. Louis in Wednesday's opener in their swanky new $634 million ballpark. Miami did not have a hit until newcomer Jose Reyes led off the seventh inning with a single.

Big seasons are expected from Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton, who combined to go 0 for 8 on Wednesday.

While the Marlins' opener showcased a colorful home-run sculpture beyond the center field fence and women dressed as Latin showgirls during player introductions, a more traditional opening day can be expected in Cincinnati - where a downtown parade christens the start of the season.

Zack Cozart is set to become the Reds' first rookie shortstop to start a season opener since Frank Duffy in 1971.

"It's something that coming up as a baseball player - ever since I was 6 years old - you dream of it," Cozart said. "And it's finally happening for me. I'm excited for me. I'm also excited for this team. We believe we're just as good as anybody."

Cincinnati won 79 games in 2011 after capturing the NL Central the season before.

Johnny Cueto will throw the first pitch after an injury-plagued 2011 in which he went 9-5 with a 2.31 ERA in 24 starts. The Reds have won all three of his starts against the Marlins despite the right-hander posting a 5.63 ERA.

Guillen and Reds manager Dusty Baker are both with their first club since leaving Chicago. Both led the Chicago franchises to historic success, with Guillen guiding the White Sox to their first World Series crown in 88 years in 2005 and Baker helping the Cubs get their first postseason series victory in 95 years in 2003.

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