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Rijo earns spot on Reds' roster

Jose Rijo is back in the big leagues.

Cincinnati gave Rijo a one-year deal Friday, adding him to the 40-man roster and ending the suspense over whether he could come back after five elbow operations.

Rijo, 36, was in camp with a minor-league deal but was among the club's best pitchers in spring training, retiring the first 18 batters.

Rijo was sitting on the bench during the third inning of an 8-4 loss to Pittsburgh when manager Bob Boone called him over for the moment Rijo had anticipated and dreaded.

"I was the most nervous I've been in my whole career," Rijo said. "Not when I faced my first major-league hitter was I as nervous as I was today."

Boone extended a hand.

"I just said, "Congratulations, you're on the club,' " Boone said.

Rijo will get a $500,000 base salary. He can make up to $250,000 in incentives that begin with his 35th appearance.

The Reds opened a spot on their roster by putting right-hander Seth Etherton on the 60-day disabled list. Etherton, who missed last season because of shoulder surgery, will stay in Florida to continue rehabilitation.

The MVP of the Reds' 1990 World Series sweep of Oakland hadn't pitched since he had his first reconstructive elbow operation in 1995. But he made 13 relief appearances last season with a 2.12 ERA.

ASTROS: Alan Zinter hit two homers, including a grand slam that capped a six-run 10th inning in a 13-7 victory over the Marlins.

"This is fun. This is what you always dream about," said Zinter, who has four homers in his past five at-bats.

Zinter, a nonroster player, will start the season at Triple A.

BRAVES: Greg Maddux allowed nine runs, walked six and had an error in four innings against Cleveland. He has never allowed nine runs in a regular-season or postseason game. The last time he walked six in a regular-season game was June 1, 1994.

BREWERS: Outfielder Jackson Melian was claimed off waivers. The Reds let him go to make room for Hamilton.

CUBS: The five starting pitchers will be Jon Lieber, Kerry Wood, Juan Cruz, Jason Bere and Julian Tavarez. Lieber will pitch the season opener.

Also, right-hander Scott Chiasson was optioned to Triple-A Iowa, and right-hander Pat Mahomes, outfielder Jayson Bass and catcher Adam Melhuse were returned to the minor-league camp.

DODGERS: Outfielder Dante Bichette retired after 14 seasons. A career .299 batter, Bichette hit 274 homers and drove in 1,141 runs. He said he would be intrigued by an everyday job but didn't believe one was available.

GIANTS: Tests on second baseman Jeff Kent showed some healing in the broken bone in his left wrist. Kent no longer will need a cast but will continue to keep the wrist immobilized when he's not working out.

MARLINS: Second baseman Luis Castillo was scratched because of a sore groin and is not expected to play until Monday at the earliest.

Also, left-hander Benito Baez will have his sore left elbow examined April 1. Baez, who has not pitched since March 6, had an MRI exam that showed inflammation of a ligament.

PIRATES: Pitcher Pat Rapp, who said Thursday he didn't believe he was getting a fair chance to make the starting rotation, was was given his unconditional release. In four appearances, Rapp allowed 10 earned runs and 16 hits in 10 innings.

Also, catcher Humberto Cota was optioned to Triple-A Nashville. Reassigned to the minor-league camp were right-hander Al Reyes, infielder Mendy Lopez and outfielder Luis Polonia.

_ TIMES WIRES

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