Notes: Injuries deplete Reds rotation

Notes: Rotation dwindling at spring camp

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Good thing the regular season doesn't begin today.

If it did, the Reds would be in trouble. They're already playing without three-fifths of their rotation because of injuries.

Joining Paul Wilson (rehabilitating from shoulder surgery) and Eric Milton (right calf strain) in the trainer's room is Aaron Harang, who has come down with right shoulder inflammation. It was decided late Wednesday that Harang wouldn't make his scheduled start on Thursday vs. Pittsburgh.

"If it was the season, I think he would have pitched today," Reds manager Jerry Narron said.

"I was trying to find my release point and do a couple of little different things with my mechanics," said Harang, Cincinnati's projected Opening Day starter. "[The shoulder] was telling me it doesn't like it. I'm not worried about it."

Narron wasn't fretting about Harang's shoulder either, or about his club's suddenly depleted rotation. And this is a starting five that already had questions about its depth entering Spring Training.

"Right now, there's not as much concern as if it was March 15. Then it becomes a concern," Narron said.

Pitchers Michael Gosling, Justin Germano and others will continue to get more looks and a shot to step up. Non-roster lefty Tommy Phelps filled in for Harang and worked three scoreless innings on Thursday.

"It gives other guys an opportunity to pitch that wouldn't normally get a chance," Narron said.

Harang took Wednesday and Thursday off from throwing. He will resume playing catch on Friday and it will be determined if he can make his next start. He said the soreness was not in the labrum or rotator cuff areas of his shoulder.

"It's already feeling better than it did a couple of days ago. That's a positive," said Harang, who was the club's leader in innings, wins, ERA, quality starts and strikeouts last season.

Milton, who re-aggravated his calf injury during his first start on Tuesday, was officially scratched from his scheduled start Sunday and will work a simulated game on the side instead. Germano will take his place against the Phillies.

Moving on up: Reds third baseman Edwin Encarnacion extended his Major League lead by smacking his fifth home run of the spring in a 1-for-3 game Thursday. The second-inning two-run shot to left field off Ian Snell was the difference maker in a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh.

Encarnacion, who is 9-for-21 (.429) this spring, entered camp on the inside track to win the third baseman's job but was not assured anything.

"I'm working hard," Encarnacion said. "Everything with my offense is going right, right now."

"The Dominican Babe Ruth," first baseman Adam Dunn teased before the game.

Encarnacion batted .232 with nine homers and 31 RBIs in his 2005 rookie season while batting mainly in the eighth spot ahead of the pitcher. Narron expected to move the 23-year-old up in the order.

"He's showing he's a little bit better hitter than that," Narron said. "I think he's going to be a middle of the order guy, I really do. You're talking about a young kid here. He's got some growing to do. The big thing is if he's going to be an RBI guy that drives in runs from the middle of the order, that's something we have to find out."

Roster pruned: The first significant roster cuts came down Thursday with pitchers Bubba Nelson and Luke Hudson being released by the club. Infielders Anderson Machado, Aaron Herr, Derek Wathan and pitcher Josh Hall were re-assigned to the Minor League camp.

The most prominent name on the list was Hudson, who made 16 starts for Cincinnati last season. He was 6-9 with a 6.38 ERA in 19 games overall in 2005. The right-hander had a 2.25 ERA in four innings this spring.

"We felt like there were other people ahead of him," Narron said. "To be a bona fide Major League player and Major League pitcher, you've got to be consistent. At times, he was very, very good. At other times, he was very bad. What separates you is consistency."

Oh Canada! The lone Canadian in big league camp, first baseman Joey Votto, took great delight in Team Canada's 8-6 win over Team USA on Wednesday in the World Baseball Classic. But Votto tried to contain his enthusiasm.

"If I was part of the 25-man roster, you wouldn't hear the end of it," said Votto, who had 17 homers and 83 RBIs for Class A Sarasota last season. "I'd be walking around with a flag and everything. But I know my place. You shouldn't do that in your first camp."

Seen and heard: Reliever Kent Mercker is now expected to make his spring debut Friday.

Non-roster outfielder Dewayne Wise's streak of six consecutive hits ended Thursday with a second-inning ground out to first base.

Reds baserunners are 4-for-11 in stolen base attempts this spring. They were 1-for-2 against Pittsburgh.

Coming up: Left-hander Phil Dumatrait will make his second start of spring Friday when the Reds host the Yankees and Mike Mussina at 1:05 p.m. ET.

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