Reds continue exhibition mastery of Pirates

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 2, 2004

BRADENTON, Fla. - The Cincinnati Reds can only hope to keep playing this well against the Pittsburgh Pirates when the games count.

Sean Casey kept up his strong late-spring hitting with a run-scoring double and single and the Reds maintained their Florida mastery of the Pirates, winning 8-4 Thursday.

The Reds won seven of eight against the Pirates, whose 19 losses are their most since they moved their spring training camp to Bradenton in 1969. The Pirates have two more games remaining.

Email newsletter signup

The Pirates (11-19-1) had never lost more than 18 games in exhibition play, doing so in 1985 (6-18), 1997 (13-18) and 1998 (13-18).

The Reds are 17-16, but 10-15 against opponents other than Pittsburgh. They played their third consecutive game without center fielder Ken Griffey Jr., who strained his right calf Monday.

Griffey hit in a batting cage and ran on a treadmill at the Reds' complex in Sarasota and will be re-evaluated Friday. He is expected to be ready for opening day Monday.

Reds starter Todd Van Poppel allowed four runs, three earned, over four innings before Phil Norton, Todd Jones, John Riedling and Brian Reith combined for five scoreless innings.

All made the final 25-man roster when left-hander Jesus Sanchez was reassigned to minor league camp.

''He (Von Poppel) has been better his last three-four times out,'' Cincinnati manager Dave Miley said. ''He left a pitch up to Bobby Hill, but other than that he threw well.''

Hill, refusing to concede the Pirates' second base job to rookie Jose Castillo, hit his fifth homer and third since Sunday. Hill is hitting .365.

With the score tied at 4, Pirates reliever Jason Boyd failed to get an out in a go-ahead, four-run Reds sixth that included RBI singles by Casey, Jermaine Clark and Ray Olmedo. Casey is hitting .375 (12-for-32) in his last 11 games.

Pirates starter Kris Benson gave up four runs and eight hits in five innings, but was encouraged with his injury-free spring after missing the second half of last season with a sore shoulder.

''I had no problems at all with my arm,'' he said. ''I wanted to get my work done and everything in tune for the season, and I think I accomplished that.''

Notes: It was unusually chilly, with a steady breeze of 15-20 mph that made it feel much colder than the gametime temperature of 68. … No other teams that train in Florida played as many as eight times. The Orioles-Marlins and Dodgers-Mets each played seven times. … Jones pitched a scoreless sixth in his first appearance since being hit just above the right elbow Monday by a line drive. … The Pirates placed OF Jason Bay and INF Freddy Sanchez on the 15-day disabled list, with Bay's move retroactive to March 25. Pittsburgh also purchased the contract of closer Jose Mesa from Triple-A Nashville.