Harang, Reds usher in new era

Harang, Reds ready to usher in new era

Paul Wilson, Cory Lidle, Jimmy Haynes, Joey Hamilton and Pete Harnisch.

These men have two things in common. They were the Reds' last five Opening Day starters. And they were part of the past five losing campaigns in Cincinnati.

When they commence the 2006 season against the Cubs on Monday at Great American Ball Park, the Reds will have their sixth different Opening Day starter in six years in Aaron Harang.

But under new ownership and front-office regime that took over in the offseason, the club has been hopeful that its run of disappointment will end.

It's no surprise that Harang was tapped for the opener. He was Cincinnati's most consistent pitcher on a rotation that was often badly beaten up last season. The 27-year-old right-hander was 11-13 with a 3.83 ERA in 32 starts while striking out 163 in 211 2/3 innings.

"It's the oldest franchise in Major League Baseball," Harang said earlier in Spring Training. "For anybody to get that Opening Day start, it's an honor."

Harang was the only Reds starter from 2005 to cross the 200-inning benchmark and he led the staff in several statistical categories -- including wins, ERA, strikeouts, innings and quality starts with 19.

This spring, Harang seemed ready to build off last season. He's gone 4-0 with a 2.84 ERA in five starts. While striking out 12 overall, he didn't allow his first run until his fourth start and didn't issue his first walk until his final outing.

"He's looked very good," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "I've been very pleased with the way he's thrown. I've been very pleased with his poise and just the confidence he's shown on the mound. At this level, a huge part of it is knowing that you're a Major League pitcher and a good player. I think he knows that."

Harang believed that confidence came from having more experience.

"Before I got over here, [the Athletics] were very tentative with me," Harang said on Wednesday after his final spring start. "I got over here and every time out it's, 'Here's the ball, go to work and get the job done.' I've kind of learned more of the hitters around the league. I know what to expect of myself and what I need to do to improve."

As for taking part in his first Opening Day as Reds manager, Narron was excited.

"I look forward to it every year whether it's as a coach, player or manager. I love it," Narron said. "Opening Day in baseball is special. It always has been and always will be. The intensity of Opening Day is like the postseason. That one regular-season game is like the postseason. That's awesome."

Harang said he was trying not to get caught up with the buzz that comes with pitching the opener.

"It probably won't hit me until we get to Cincinnati," he said. "It probably won't hit me until that day.

Pitching matchup
CIN: RHP Aaron Harang
• 11-13, 3.83 ERA in 2005
• 3-0, 3.68 in 2005 vs. CHC
• 4-0, 3.99 lifetime vs. CHC

CHC: RHP Carlos Zambrano
• 14-6, 3.26 ERA in 2005
• 0-0, 7.59 ERA in 2005 vs. CIN
• 5-3, 2.33 ERA lifetime vs. CIN

  Reds probable lineup
1.2BTony Womack
2.SSFelipe Lopez
3.CFKen Griffey Jr.
4.LFAdam Dunn
5.3BEdwin Encarnacion
6.1BScott Hatteberg
7.RFAustin Kearns
8.CJavier Valentin
9.PAaron Harang

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• CIN: FSN Ohio

On radio
• CIN: WLW 700-AM
• CHC: WGN 720-AM

On deck
• Tuesday: Off-day
• Wednesday: vs. Cubs, 12:35 p.m. ET
• Thursday: vs. Pirates, 7:10 p.m. ET
• Friday: vs. Pirates, 7:10 p.m. ET

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