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First rain delay: Reds reschedule opener with Nationals

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Washington Nationals’ Trea Turner celebrates his solo home run with Michael A. Taylor during the fifth inning of a spring exhibition baseball game against the Minnesota Twins on March 27 in Washington.

CINCINNATI >> The 2018 baseball season already has its first rain delay.

The Cincinnati Reds pushed back their opener against the Washington Nationals by a day because unrelenting rain is forecast for Thursday. The teams will open on Friday afternoon instead, taking advantage of what was a scheduled day off.

It is the first time since 1966 that Cincinnati called off its opener because of the weather.

The pitching matchups remain the same: NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (16-6) faces Homer Bailey (6-9), who is making his first opening day start for the Reds.

The forecast calls for steady and sometimes heavy rain Thursday, meaning the game likely would have faced long delays if it could be played at all, Reds President Phil Castellini said.

“Trust me, we do not cancel games here lightly,” Castellini said. “No scenario in the forecast has it opening up at all to get in a game tomorrow without rain.”

Before the game was rescheduled, it already had become a different sort of opener in Cincinnati, which by tradition gets to begin the season at home.

The city throws a big party complete with downtown parade on opening day, but that wasn’t possible this year with Major League Baseball’s opening date. The market association that organizes the festivities is busy with the upcoming Easter weekend and decided to wait until Monday, when the Reds host the Cubs, to hold the parade.

Now, there won’t even be a game in Cincinnati as the rest of the teams get underway.

Dave Martinez will have to wait a day before his first game as Nationals manager. He takes over for Dusty Baker, who was fired after Washington failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs again last season. The Nationals lost to the Cubs in the Division Series, the second year in a row that they failed to get deeper into the postseason under Baker.

“I’m just excited about standing out for the anthem and getting it started,” Martinez said, before the Nationals arrived in the rainy city. “The boys are ready. I’m ready.”

Ready to wait.

The Reds have rarely had to call off their season opener despite Cincinnati’s notoriously fickle and unpredictable spring weather. They’ve played the game after snowfalls.

Cincinnati hadn’t called off an opener because of bad weather since 1966, when a series against the Mets was rained out and the Reds opened on the road at Philadelphia. John McSherry collapsed on the field after the seventh pitch of the 1996 opener and died. Ken Griffey Jr.’s debut with the Reds in 2000 was called as a 3-3 tie with one out in the top of the sixth because of rain.

The Reds are coming off three straight last-place finishes as they continue their rebuild. Bailey is one of the few players left from the days when they were competing for NL Central titles. He’s coming off three years of elbow and forearm problems, including Tommy John surgery.

A year ago, he was recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs from is elbow. Now he gets to start the rain-delayed opener.

“It beats having stiches in your arm,” Bailey said.

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