Notes: Harang likely to start opener

Notes: Harang likely to start opener

SARASOTA, Fla. -- All signs are favorably pointing towards Aaron Harang being the Reds' Opening Day starting pitcher.

Harang was Cincinnati's most consistent starter in 2005, going 11-13 with a 3.83 ERA in 32 starts. He was the lone member of the rotation to surpass 200 innings, working 211 2/3 frames.

Reds manager Jerry Narron declined to make any confirmations, but he certainly hinted about which way he was leaning.

"Aaron Harang definitely deserves a chance at it, but we'll see what happens," Narron said.

Tentatively, Harang's first exhibition start will be March 4 against the Yankees at Tampa. If given the expected four days rest between starts all month, it would put the right-hander perfectly in line to pitch the April 3 regular-season opener against the Cubs at Great American Ball Park.

Keenly aware of Cincinnati's lengthy baseball tradition and the attention the first game usually generates from the fans, Harang was prepared for the assignment.

"It's the oldest franchise in Major League Baseball," Harang said. "For anybody to get that Opening Day start, it's an honor. But I'm going to go out and get ready for the season, build up some innings and get my arm in shape this spring."

The last time the Reds had the same pitcher start openers in back-to-back years was Pete Harnisch in 2000-01. Paul Wilson made last year's Opening Day start.

Use a pencil, not a pen: Narron and pitching coach Vern Ruhle are assembling their list of probable pitchers for the beginning of the exhibition schedule.

It appears that Dave Williams will start Tuesday against Kia, a Korean professional team. Brandon Claussen will be a starter in Wednesday's five-inning intrasquad game. Eric Milton likely will start the Grapefruit League opener Thursday against the Tigers at Lakeland. For next Friday's split-squad games vs. Detroit and Minnesota, Justin Germano and Michael Gosling are slated to pitch.

The order of pitchers was not set in stone, however.

"It's not even in mud," Narron said.

Positive trip: Reds chief executive officer Bob Castellini was back in town and watching activity on the practice fields Friday after his one-day trip to the Dominican Republic. Castellini took a tour of the organization's Latin American Academy with general manager Wayne Krivsky, player development director Johnny Almaraz and former Reds pitcher Mario Soto.

"I was really impressed. I was so happy I made that trip," Castellini said. "Johnny Almaraz has done a great job. The last two years, we've really improved our operations there. It's a very well-run camp."

Injury report: Left-handed reliever Kent Mercker, who reported stiffness and soreness in the upper back muscles below his shoulder while warming up Thursday, long-tossed on Friday and will be re-examined by trainers Saturday.

Reliever Ryan Wagner missed his second straight day because of flu-like symptoms.

After being bothered by lower back spasms earlier this week, right-hander Luke Hudson threw in a live batting practice session Friday.

More signings: The Reds agreed to one-year contracts with third baseman Edwin Encarnacion and pitcher Mike Burns.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.