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Rebuilding Reds turn to vetaran Feldman on Opening Day

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnnati Reds expect to have seven rookies on their Opening Day roster, but the starting pitcher for Monday's opener versus the Philadelphia Phillies made his major league debut 12 years ago.

Due to injuries to Anthony DeSclafani and Homer Bailey, veteran Scott Feldman, a 10-year veteran, will start on Opening Day for Cincinnati.

Having a 34-year old start the opener wouldn't seem logical for a club in the midst of a rebuild, but Feldman already has two career Opening Day starts for Houston and Texas and manager Bryan Price believes that experience will benefit him.

"I'm just approaching it like a regular game and trying to embrace the large crowd and the atmosphere," Feldman said. "It's like a playoff atmosphere almost."

Feldman signed a one-year deal in January and went 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA in five spring training starts, allowing eight earned runs with seven walks, 15 strikeouts and a 1.50 WHIP in 18 2/3 innings. He spent a lot of time during spring training refining his changeup.

"He's our most experienced pitcher," Price said. "I don't think the situation will overwhelm him. He's been around the game long enough. He knows how to command the fastball. He has an outstanding curveball."

Cincinnati's rebuild has focused primarily on young pitching. That said, the everyday lineup is set and has potential. There's speed at the top in center fielder Billy Hamilton and second baseman Jose Peraza, power in the middle with Joey Votto and Adam Duvall.

The last team to have as many as seven rookies on its 25-man roster was Arizona in 2007.

"What makes this season exciting is the guys who have made the club are guys that we anticipated for a long time were going to be here," Price said. "Last year was difficult, trying to plug holes with guys who weren't ready to be here."

For the second straight year, right-hander Jeremy Hellickson will start Opening Day for the Phillies, who are in the midst of a similar rebuilding process.

"He opened up for us last year and he had a real good year for us," manager Pete Mackanin told reporters during the final week of spring training. "I have a lot of confidence in him. I think he earned the right after last year."

Hellickson went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts last season. He pitched well but took the loss on Opening Day against the Reds, allowing one unearned runs and three hits in six innings.

"I'm ready," Hellickson told MLB.com. "It's been a long spring, but now that it's over, it feels like it went by fast."

Phillies second-round pick Andrew Knapp who hasn't played above Double A, made the club as a backup catcher. Power-hitting third baseman Maikel Franco is poised for a big year.

The Reds and Phillies are meeting for the seventh time on Opening Day and for the second straight year. Cincinnati is 4-2 versus Philadelphia in season openers dating to 1958.

Rain is in the forecast for Monday, but it's hard to dampen the enthusiasm on Opening Day in Cincinnati, which begins with the 98th Findlay Market Opening Day parade on downtown streets in the morning then festivities continuing throughout the day.

"Baseball season permeates the area," Price said. "It's one thing that's palpable here. You just have to go through one Opening Day (in Cincinnati) and you're locked in."

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