The Reds fell 10-6 to Colorado on Thursday afternoon at Tucson. The Rox put together a 7-run third inning against starter Aaron Harang (L, 1-2), chasing him from the game well short of his scheduled five innings. Harang got his work in by throwing in the bullpen after he was pulled from the game.
Is anyone else concerned about Harang’s spring, especially after taking into account his lousy records of the last two seasons? The problem in Thursday’s game began with a walk. Then Troy Tulowitski hit a 2-run homer for a 2-0 Rockies lead. When Harang was pulled, he had given up seven earned runs on nine hits and two walks in just 2.2 innings. Granted, the last two hits came on broken-bat bloopers. But the Rockies were getting the bat on the ball, and good things happened for them.
I don’t think Harang has ever had a spring this bad statistically, as his ERA has ballooned to 11. Do you realize he’s thrown only nine innings all spring? He threw nearly 26 innings last spring and 22 innings in 2008. And, I know all the people who get paid to know say that the dry air prevents the ball from breaking as well. But Harang has never relied on breaking pitches to be successful. Speed and placement have been his trademarks. He is a combined 12-31 over his last two seasons with a 4.52 ERA, and he’s getting the Opening Day start. Bronson Arroyo, the Reds best pitcher over the past two seasons, had come out and said he didn’t want the Opening Day start. Arroyo thought that the honor should go to Harang because of his past success. But, at what point does a manager ask himself, “When is he not the guy he used to be?” We’re not talking Tom Seaver here. We’re talking about a guy who has 75 wins entering his ninth season. I’d rather see Johnny Cueto get the nod this year if Arroyo doesn’t want it.
Pitching has to be a strength if the Reds are going to contend this year. Things look pretty good right now. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Harang gets sent down at some point. In my mind, it is unfortunate that Walt Jocketty didn’t trade him to the Los Angeles Dodgers last off-season. I like Aaron, but Great American Ball Park will likely expose his flaws… unless he can get it together. He’s a southern California guy and Dodger Stadium is extremely more pitcher friendly. Harang and Cincinnati are matched, however, and hopefully new pitching coach Bryan Price can find the answer before April 5.
Not much more to report about the game. Jonny Gomes led off the fifth inning with a homer to left. He leads Cincinnati with five spring training home runs. Laynce Nix followed with a longball to right. A lot has been focused on the battle for centerfield and left this spring, but the battle for the last outfield spot has gone largely unnoticed. Nix was a non-roster invitee this spring and signed a minor league contract to compete – much like Gomes did last year. The word is that Nix is competing with Vladimir Balentien, and those two are neck and neck. It’s been reported that manager Dusty Baker has said that previous major league experience would hold quite a bit of weight in his decision making. At 29, Nix is four years older than the 25-year-old Balentien. But Nix is hitting .259 this spring, with Balentien at .303. Right now, I’d have to think it’s even.
I think the centerfield battle is moving toward Drew Stubbs. Chris Dickerson has had an excellent spring, but he had an 0-for-2 and struck out twice vs. Colorado, dropping his average to a still-robust .351. Stubbs had the day off. Stubbs has turned it on with an active team-best 7-game hitting streak. Stubbs is hitting .476 during the streak with three homers, three doubles, a triple and six RBIs. After what he did at the end of last season after his call-up, it looks like Stubbs is in the lead. Dickerson is also in the mix for the left field platoon spot with Gomes, which, at this point, I think will happen. So, he should still be rewarded, although maybe not as he would have hoped.
The Reds did score three times in the ninth inning to make it interesting, but the Rockies came through in the end. Just 10 games remain on the Cactus League schedule as Cincinnati has fallen to 9-10-2. Friday brings a match with the Seattle Mariners at Peoria. Speculation is that former Red Ken Griffey, Jr. will see action in the game. Mike Leake (0-0, 3,38), in the thick of the battle for the number-five spot in the rotation, will get the start. Leake is scheduled to go four innings. He’ll be followed by Travis Wood, also in the thick of the battle with Leake, with a scheduled four innings of his own. Aroldis Chapman appears to be out of the 5th starter mix now, because of his back troubles. That should sell some tickets in Louisville. The 5th starter role is apparently down to four candidates as GM Walt Jocketty told the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay that Matt Maloney and Justin Lehr are still in the mix. As far as Friday’s game, Seattle will send lefty Luke French (1-0, 4.50) to the mound. Game time is 4:05 (ET).
About the Author
Written by Dave Allen
I'm a lifelong Cincinnati sports fan who has been following the Reds and Bengals ever since I can remember. My first Reds game was Game 6 of the '72 World Series and my first Bengals game was an October 1975 clash with the Steelers. I've been involved in sports media since Junior High, when I assisted with scores for Bob Trumpy SportsTalk in 1979 on WLW Radio. My biggest Reds highlight came in 1998 when I was chosen to be the public address announcer at Riverfront Stadium (then called Cinergy Field) for Opening Day and the entire first homestand. I am thrilled to be involved with PSB and I hope you enjoy my entries!