Tuesday, March 09, 1999

REDS NOTEBOOK


Harnisch has look of No. 1

BY CHRIS HAFT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SARASOTA, Fla. — Hold the excitement, Pete Harnisch insisted.

        Though Denny Neagle's delayed spring progress virtually assured that Harnisch will be the Reds' Opening Day starting pitcher against the San Francisco Giants on April 5, the right-hander didn't want to say much about his distinction until manager Jack McKeon comes to him.

        “It means nothing until he tells me,” said Harnisch, who received Opening Day assignments with Houston in 1992 and '94 and with the New York Mets in 1997.

        Harnisch admitted sensing that he might be picked to begin the season: “I figured, it's me or the other guy (Neagle).”

        Harnisch had another strong outing, working four scoreless innings in Monday's 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing only a third-inning double to Jason Kendall while striking out three. He has retired 24 of 27 hitters he has faced in two spring starts, firing eight shutout innings.

        “It's close. It could be a little better,” he said of his performance. “But my arm feels really good. I feel like I've got pretty good velocity on the ball and I'm throwing strikes. This time of year, that's all you have to look for. After that, whatever the results are, they are.”

        POKING AWAY: Shortstop Pokey Reese, who entered the game with one hit in 15 exhibition at-bats, bolstered his confidence and his sanity by grounding a single in his first at-bat.

        Reese went hitless in his next three trips, striking out once with runners at the corners. “I've gotta be smarter there,” Reese said. “That's the thing about being a better hitter. Be patient, don't hit his pitch. That's what I have to learn and that's why we have spring training.”

        But Reese also stroked the ball up the middle on a fly out and a grounder, which encouraged him.

        FIRST TO GO: The Reds made their first roster cuts of the spring, optioning outfielder Mike Frank to Triple-A Indianapolis and reassigning six players to minor-league camp: right-handed pitchers Todd Etler, John Riedling and Ted Rose, first baseman Stephen Larkin, outfielder Rod Myers and catcher James Davis.

        Frank played with Double-A Chattanooga, Triple-A and Cincinnati last year, batting .225 with no homers and seven RBI in 28 games as a Red. Larkin, the Moeller High School graduate who's shortstop Barry Larkin's brother, is beginning his fourth full season in the Reds' system. Etler, the Covington Catholic High School graduate who was 6-0 with a 1.92 ERA in Double-A last year, did not appear in any games.

        ETC.: Friday's “B” game at Tampa Bay was canceled. The Reds have three others: Saturday against Philadelphia, March 23 at Minnesota and March 24 against Tampa Bay.

       



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