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Reds to open 2014 season against Cardinals

Dusty Baker couldn’t believe his ears when he was told the Diamondbacks and Dodgers would open the 2014 season with two regular-season games in Sydney, Australia.

“I always wanted to go to Australia,” Baker said, “but not that way.”

That was one of the surprises when Major League Baseball released the schedule for next season on Tuesday. Another was the Reds’ opponent March 31 on Opening Day: the Cardinals.

This will be the fourth time the Reds have played the Cardinals on Opening Day in the last 50 years. They also met in 1988, 1994 and 2010. The Reds and Cardinals play six times in the first nine games.

“They’re putting us through the gauntlet rather quickly,” Baker said.

The final month of the season is also interesting. The Reds’ last 19 games are against NL Central opponents.

Cincinnati’s interleague schedule includes series against American League East opponents, including two two-game series against the Reds Sox. For the second straight year, the Reds will play four games in a row against the Indians with two games in Cleveland and two in Cincinnati.

Record breaker: Shin-Soo Choo earned a Reds record the hard way. He was hit by a pitch Monday night in the 2-0 loss to the Cubs for the 25th time this season. That’s a team record, breaking the mark of Jason LaRue (2004).

The pitch hit Choo square in the back, and he winced in pain before heading to first, a familiar sight this season. A day later, he said he felt fine.

“Back is no problem,” he said. “Knee, elbow, that’s a different story.”

Choo said it wasn’t a goal of his to break the record, but he’s proud of his on-base percentage. He ranks second in the NL at .425, and it would be .401 if he hadn’t been hit 25 times. He leads all of baseball in the category.

Only two other players have been hit as many as 15 times: the Pirates’ Starling Marte (21) and Boston’s Shane Victorino (16).

Choo said he felt lucky to have been hit that many times and not suffered a serious injury.

“I’ve been hit 25 times, and I haven’t had an issue,” he said. “Maybe one time, a kneecap.”

The Reds didn’t recognize the record on the scoreboard. Choo also didn’t keep the ball as a souvenir. At least one teammate realized history had been made.

“At the end of the inning, (Zack) Cozart brought me my glove and hat,” Choo said, “and said, ‘Choo, you broke the record. Congrats. I know you didn’t want that.’”

Marshall pitches: Injured reliever Sean Marshall threw 23 pitches off the mound to hitters on Tuesday as he nears a return to the active roster. He said he felt good, and Baker liked what he saw as well.

“I took it as a real game situation,” Marshall said. “I envisioned myself warming up with people in the crowd, and I was pitching at game speed.”

Hot and not: After going 0-for-10 in the last two games of the St. Louis series last week, including the first 0-for-7 performance of his career, Joey Votto recorded two hits in three of the next four games. Through Monday, he was hitting .304.

Cozart extended his career-best hitting streak to 14 games Monday. He’s 21-for-55 (.382) in that span.

Neftali Soto is 0-for-4 in pinch-hit appearances since being called up last week. He’s 0-for-7 on the season, and in his career, with five strikeouts.

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