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WS2011 Gm6: Westbrook earns win with scoreless 11th

An air of uncertainty surrounds Monday's starting pitching matchup, as the Reds and Cardinals open a three-game series at Great American Ballpark.

Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook hasn't pitched since his last Spring Training outing March 31, and Reds starter Homer Bailey will be trying to start the 2012 season on a positive note after enduring a rough spring.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he's confident Westbrook will make the most of what he said was a less than ideal schedule for him.

"He's just a soldier," Matheny said Sunday. "He does whatever he can do whenever he gets the opportunity. As you put it together from Opening Day backwards, you saw that kind of coming. It was really hard to switch everything up."

Westbrook threw a lengthy side session Tuesday (between 70-80 pitches) in order to make up for the length of time between starts.

Westbrook, who was 12-9 with a 4.66 ERA in 2011, compiled a 1.50 ERA in 24 innings during five Spring Training appearances, giving up 12 hits and four earned runs while striking out 15 and walking seven.

"This was probably one of the best springs I've ever had," Westbrook said. "I'm super confident in where I am. I just want to try and keep that going and be as consistent as I can possibly be."

Bailey is coming off a decent year -- 9-7 with a 4.43 ERA -- but he struggled in Spring Training, finishing with a 7.98 ERA in five appearances, giving up 20 hits and 13 earned runs in 13 innings.

Bailey and left-hander Aroldis Chapman spent Spring Training competing for a rotation spot, and while Chapman pitched better -- 1.50 ERA in 18 innings -- Reds management was not comfortable with the possibility of Bailey in a bullpen role, and he was out of options.

The hard-throwing Chapman started the season in the bullpen and was excellent in the opening series against Miami.

He pitched two scoreless innings, striking out three and allowing one hit while getting the victory in a 6-5 victory over the Marlins on Sunday, after pitching a scoreless inning in the Reds' season opener Thursday.

Cardinals: Hit parade resumes
The Cardinals come in to the series with their offense in high gear. They've had 13 or more hits in three of their first four games, including 14 in a 9-3 victory over the Brewers on Sunday. Their only misfire was Saturday, when Zack Greinke and the Brewers' bullpen held them to six hits in a 6-0 loss, their only loss so far.

Reds: Stubbs wants to use speed
Outfielder Drew Stubbs has tried to make bunting one of his tools in order to utilize his speed for infield hits. It worked well on Thursday, as he bunted for a single past the mound.

"I felt like I put in a lot of hard work in Spring Training the last couple of years," Stubbs said. "I've finally got to the comfort level where I could use it when I needed to. I felt like it was a good time to use it and get off on the right foot."

Worth noting

The series is the first of what some project as a season-long three-way fight among the Cardinals, Reds and Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.

The Reds were 9-6 against the Cardinals in 2011 and 8-8 against the division-champion Brewers, while the Cardinals were 9-9 against the Brewers in the regular season before prevailing in six games in the National League Championship Series.

Despite the loss of manager Tony La Russa and baseball's best hitter in first baseman Albert Pujols, the Reds expect a formidable Cardinals team to show up.

"Everyone can say what they want about losing Albert and losing Tony," right fielder Jay Bruce said. "They're still going to be a premier team in this league."

Manager Dusty Baker agreed.

"They've still got a real good team," Baker said. "They have almost everybody but Albert."

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