By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer
PITTSBURGH - The Reds' 9-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates had the scariest moment of the year. Ryan Freel, trying to sacrifice bunt in the ninth, was hit on the ear flap of his helmet by a Jason Boyd pitch.
Freel went down and lay motionless for a few minutes after he was hit, but was able to walk off on his own. He said he never lost consciousness. "I never went out," he said. "I was just a little dizzy."
Freel was examined by the Pittsburgh team doctor at PNC Park.
"I've just got a little swelling behind my ear," he said. "I'll be OK."
Freel did not start for the first time this season. He was brought on to bunt with runners at first and second and no outs.
KEARNS' SORE SHOULDER: Austin Kearns would like to take extra batting practice every day to help get out of his slump.
"I want to, but I can't because of my shoulder," he said. "It's beat up from just playing every day. As much as I'd like to, I can't do any more extra work."
Kearns had season-ending surgery on his right shoulder Aug. 14. He says the shoulder is fine, for the most part.
"There are days when it's stronger than others," he said.
Hitting coach Chris Chambliss doesn't see the shoulder affecting Kearns at the plate.
"He looks healthy to me," Chambliss said.
But Kearns continues to struggle. He snapped a career-high 0-for-18 streak when he doubled to lead off the ninth inning Saturday.
He sees signs of things getting better.
"I'm starting to see the ball better," he said. "I hit the ball hard a couple of times (Friday) night."
Said Chambliss: "He's seeing the ball pretty well. It's not like he's swinging wildly at bad pitches."
Chambliss maintains it's just a matter of time before Kearns hits.
"Not everyone's going to have a great April," he said.
Kearns' struggles have been offset by the fact the team is winning.
"I'm happy about that," Kearns said. "Hopefully, I'll be going to the party soon."
CASTRO IN: Juan Castro started at third base Saturday for Freel, who had started all 16 games after playing nearly every day in spring training.
Castro also will start today's game. He'll play shortstop, giving Barry Larkin a break.
"That's good for me," Castro said. "It gives me a chance to get six, eight at-bats."
LARSON UPDATE: It looks as if it will be Monday at the earliest before Brandon Larson is recalled from his rehabilitation stint at Triple-A Louisville. "He's getting close," said assistant general manager Dean Taylor. "We told him we'd evaluate it after each series."
The Bats opened a two-game series with Toledo Saturday.
Larson, who is rehabbing from a turf toe injury, went 4-for-8 in a doubleheader Friday. He entered Saturday hitting .371 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 10 games.
UP NEXT: The Reds play the third of the four-game series against Pittsburgh today at 1:35 p.m. Jose Acevedo (2-0, 3.26 ERA) faces left-hander Oliver Perez (1-0, 3.09). Acevedo went seven innings, allowing two runs and three hits, in Tuesday's 3-2 win over Atlanta.
REDS FACT: Today's starter, Jose Acevedo, has won two of three starts, and was the victim of a blown save in the other. He's 2-1 lifetime against the Pirates.
BENGALS / NFL DRAFT
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First pick Perry has all the tools
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Bengals get ton of talent in pick
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A day in the life of Ben
After tense hour, Giant victory for No. 1 pick
Three Buckeyes selected in first round
Tagliabue honors fallen hero
COLLEGE SPRING FOOTBALL
Dantonio sets new course
Bearcats are waiting for receivers to step up
Zwick holds slight advantage as starting QB
Pittman tosses helmet into Buckeyes' RB derby
UK spring game: QB Boyd continues to shine
Horse racing's dirty little secret
Adding to family's grief are the debts
'Jockey' moving but lacking in context
REDS / BASEBALL
Bad start, big finish for Reds
ONLINE EXTRA: Photos of Saturday's game
Freel is OK after beaning
Kelly: Marlins managing Phillies
Time to ride out April hot streaks
Prior throws 50 pitches off mound
NL: Astros, Cubs keep pace
AL: Boston now 5-1 vs. Yanks
AAA: Toledo 6, Louisville 3
More runner-friendly course awaiting increased Pig field
Confident Kings makes statement
Groeschen: Coach has Maupin on mind
Ernst: Kentucky high school insider
Prep sports results, schedules
Dow: Recruit Odia says visa the issue
NBA: Davis leads Hornets to take series lead
Ducks take pivotal Game 3 with shutout
Marleau scores again as Sharks jump Avs
SUNDAY PAGE TWO
Thoman hopes summer schedule includes Olympics
What's up with that?
A quick chat with ... Mike Battaglia
Seton graduate Becca Brinker part of top-ranked Ohio State rowing team
This week's poll question
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