Harang ready to get 2007 started

Harang ready to get 2007 started

Opening Day is a special tradition, especially in Cincinnati, but it's only one game. The results aren't necessarily indicative of how the rest of the season plays out.

Just ask Reds starter Aaron Harang.

On Opening Day 2006 against the Cubs, Harang had one of his worst starts of the season. In a 16-7 defeat, he allowed nine runs, six earned, and nine hits over five innings.

Harang went on to have a career year and led the National League in strikeouts (216), complete games (six) and tied for the league lead with 16 victories.

The right-hander is once again the Reds' Opening Day starter on Monday, and it just happens to be against the Cubs again.

"It's always an honor to be able to throw on Opening Day," said Harang, who was 16-11 with a 3.76 ERA in 36 games last season and tied for the league lead with 35 starts. "It gives me another opportunity to redeem myself from last year against the Cubs, too. I'm looking forward to it."

Along with No. 2 starter Bronson Arroyo, Harang provided stability not seen for years in Cincinnati's rotation. Harang worked 234 1/3 innings, which ranked third in the NL, and behind Arroyo's 240 2/3 innings.

Harang's consistent year slipped under the radar for many -- he did not receive one vote for the NL Cy Young Award. But he was rewarded with a new four-year, $36.5 million contract in February.

Reds manager Jerry Narron was optimistic that Harang could continue to put up strong numbers.

"The big thing is taking the ball every fifth day, and he does that," Narron said. "With the innings he gives us, something good will happen over the course of the year for him.

opening day 2007

"We all have a lot of confidence that we'll be in the ballgame and that he'll give us a quality start every time out."

Opening Day comes with a lot of pomp and circumstance. There are bigger crowds, and more media and dignitaries during pre-game activity. Last season, it was even more magnified with a new ownership in place and President Bush throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

There are likely to be some distractions again for Harang this year. His job is to block them out.

"You have to think about it as any other game," Harang said. "I know last year, I was a little distracted because there was so much going on. We had to make some changes to the normal routine with the President there, too. I try not to think about it and look at it as any other game. I'll try to get my routine figured out."

  Reds probable lineup
1.CFRyan Freel
2.LFAdam Dunn
3.2BBrandon Phillips
4.RFKen Griffey Jr.
5.3BEdwin Encarnacion
6.1BScott Hatteberg
7.SSAlex Gonzalez
8.CDavid Ross
9.PAaron Harang

Pitching matchup
CIN: RHP Aaron Harang (16-11, 3.76 ERA in 2006)
Harang worked two shutouts last season, which ranked him third in the NL.

CHC: RHP Carlos Zambrano (16-7, 3.41 ERA in 2006)
Zambrano was 3-2 with a 3.76 ERA in six 2006 starts vs. Cincinnati.

Player to watch:
Left fielder Adam Dunn hit .259 with seven home runs and eight RBIs last season against the Cubs. He had more homers against Chicago than any other club in 2006.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FSN Ohio

On radio
• WLW 700-AM

Up next
• Tuesday: Off-day
• Wednesday: Cubs (LHP Ted Lilly, 15-13, 4.31 ERA in 2006) at Reds (RHP Bronson Arroyo, 14-11, 3.29 ERA in 2006) 7:10 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Cubs (RHP Jason Marquis, 14-16, 6.02) at Reds (LHP Eric Milton, 8-8, 5.19 ERA in 2006 ), 12:35 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.