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04/05/2008 8:56 PM ET
Belisle nearly perfect in rehab start
Reds right-hander does not allow baserunner until seventh
Matt Belisle also retired the first 18 batters he faced in his last big league start on Sept. 27. (Al Behrman/AP)

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Rehabbing Cincinnati Reds right-hander Matt Belisle took a perfect game into the seventh inning Saturday and came within one out of a complete game as Sarasota blanked the Tampa Yankees, 2-0.

Belisle (1-0) retired the first 18 batters before surrendering a leadoff triple to Eduardo Nunez in the bottom of the seventh. He escaped the Yankees' lone threat as Nunez was thrown out at the plate on a fielder's choice by Mitch Hilligoss.

Nunez chased Belisle in the ninth with a two-out single to right field. Sean Watson came on and got Hilligoss to ground out for his first save.

The 28-year-old Belisle allowed two hits, fanned three and induced 19 ground-ball outs. He went 2-0 with a 9.00 ERA in four Grapefruit League starts for Cincinnati before going on the disabled list on March 31 with a sore right forearm.

Belisle pitched in an extended Spring Training game the same day he was placed on the DL and threw 63 pitches, yielding one run on four hits with two strikeouts. Selected by the Atlanta Braves in the second round of the 1998 Draft, he went 8-9 with a 5.32 ERA in 30 starts for the Reds last season.

Saturday's outing was the Texan's first in the Minor Leagues since Aug. 19, when he got the start for Triple-A Louisville.

Sarasota finally put Belisle in line for the win by scratching out a run in the eighth. Sean Henry stroked a leadoff single and scored two outs later on a base hit by Juan Francisco.

Tampa's Ryan Pope kept pace with Belisle during a four-inning stint. The 2007 third-round pick allowed two hits and two walks with two strikeouts.

Danny Wild is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.