Sunday, May 02, 1999

REDS NOTEBOOK


Wohlers pitches at Triple-A today

BY CHRIS HAFT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ATLANTA — Jack McKeon didn't sound too concerned about Mark Wohlers' rehabilitation outing in Toledo today for Triple-A Indianapolis.

        “It's no big deal,” the Reds manager said Saturday. “What's the difference? He's just throwing to hitters.”

        Really, McKeon's nonchalance made sense. Given the “anxiety disorder” that serves as the official reason for Wohlers' presence on the disabled list, the Reds would prefer to shield the right-hander from pressure as much as possible.

        Wohlers, acquired April 16 from Atlanta for fellow reliever John Hudek, has pitched with varying success on the side, in full-speed batting practice and in simulated games. Pitching coach Don Gullett has worked on eliminating two of Wohlers' mechanical flaws: The stiffness in his front side as he delivers a pitch and his tendency to fall away from home plate.

        The only test left for Wohlers is to perform in an actual game, which is why he's in Toledo today. He'll pitch one inning.

        At least one knowledgeable observer thinks Wohlers can recapture the effectiveness he displayed from 1995-97, when he saved 97 games.

        “If he can get back to the way he was in spring training ... he had it working,” said Braves second baseman Bret Boone, the former Red.

        Wohlers had a 6.52 ERA with 11 walks in 9 innings during the exhibition season. But his ERA improved to 1.29 in a seven-game stretch between March 9-29. He walked six in two-thirds of an inning in two regular-season appearances last month, posting an 0-1 record and a 27.00 ERA.

Awesome Avery
        Can Steve Avery get better? Gullett believes he can.

        Avery, the first Reds starter to open the season with five consecutive seven-inning outings since Tom Browning had six in 1991, still hasn't regained his full velocity. Gullett pointed out that as Avery continues to accumulate innings, his fastball will return with his arm strength.

        “I think there's room for improvement,” Gullett said. “Hopefully he has a few more miles per hour to gain on his fastball. The innings are going to take a little toll until he gets over the hump and gets consistent. As he gets some innings under his belt, (his velocity) will creep up there.”

        Continuing to rely heavily on his change-up, Avery threw 57 fastballs and 38 changeups in his four-hit, seven-inning effort Friday night in Cincinnati's 3-0 loss to Atlanta.

        Praising Avery's technique, Gullett said, “You obviously have great arm action and great movement if the hitters know it's coming and they still can't hit it.”

TV star
        Reds first baseman Sean Casey visited the CNN/SI studios to tape a pair of feature segments. One of them will begin airing today at noon. They will then be shown alternately on CNN/SI's newscasts for the following 24 hours.

        Casey said he faltered at only one point during the taping.

        “At one point, I looked at the monitor between the two teleprompters,” he said. “I thought, "Oh my God — there I am.' I started to get a little nervous. But I refocused.”

        He jokingly added, “My comfort zone is in the batter's box.”

        Casey also toured the vast CNN broadcasting facility, from control rooms to the Headline News set. “There's so much stuff there,” he marveled.

Etc.
        The Reds' 9-12 April marked the fifth consecutive year in which they posted a losing record in the season's first month. Their last winning April came in 1994 (15-7).

        • Left fielder Greg Vaughn (left ankle) and second baseman Pokey Reese (groin) returned to the lineup from their injuries. Outfielder Dmitri Young (ribs) was bruised but said he felt OK one day after crashing into the left-field wall in pursuit of John Smoltz's double.

Up next
        Denny Neagle (0-0, 3.60 ERA) faces his former teammates and Braves left-hander Odalis Perez (0-1, 3.86) in today's series finale. Neagle will make his third start since recovering from shoulder weakness.

        Opponents have batted only .227 against Perez, who has 14 strikeouts in 18 innings. But he also has issued but 10 walks.

       



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