Tuesday, February 01, 2000
Reds like what they see of Avery
Lefty will consider offer from club
BY CHRIS HAFT
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Opportunity, not money, will determine whether Steve Avery returns to the Reds or signs with another team, the left-hander said Monday.
The left-hander impressed Reds General Manager Jim Bowden and Assistant GM Darrell Doc Rodgers while throwing about 50 pitches Monday at the TriHealth Sports Medicine facility at SportsPlus in Evendale.
He has a chance to be 100 percent by Opening Day, Bowden said of Avery, whose 1999 season ended when he underwent arthroscopic surgery to fix a tear in his left rotator cuff on Aug.5.
Avery said he needs plenty of work to regain his form. Though the Reds offered him a non-guaranteed minor-league contract with an invitation to big-league camp, Avery wants to evaluate which team will give him the best chance to join a starting rotation. Avery threw for Detroit last week and will throw for San Diego on Thursday.
I'd love to come back here, Avery said. I told Jim that the most important thing for me is to know coming into spring is that I'm going to get to throw a lot. That's the only way I'm going to build up my strength.
Avery will have plenty of company if he signs with the Reds, who already have invited 34 pitchers to camp. But he'll likely receive a fair shot from the Reds, who lack starting depth beyond their projected rotation of Pete Harnisch, Denny Neagle, Steve Parris, Brett Tomko and Ron Villone.
Jim made me feel a little better about the situation, Avery said after chatting briefly with Bowden following his throwing session. I just have to see how much opportunity there is in the other organizations ... I just don't want to get stuck someplace where I'm behind a bunch of guys and have to wait for an injury.
Avery led the Reds last spring with 34ö innings pitched. He'd settle for a similar exhibition workload this year. Being healthy will make it easier.He said he was able to throw between outings only twice last spring; this year, he expects to be fit enough to fix his pitching flaws by throwing more consistently.
My mechanics kept getting worse and worse because I never felt good enough to work on them on the side, Avery said.
That, combined with Avery's physical deterioration, led to his removal from the Reds' rotation and his unimpressive 6-7 record with a 5.16 ERA. But the Reds remember that Avery was their best pitcher in April, pitching at least seven innings in each of his first five starts while posting a 2.02 ERA and leading the National League with a .162 opponents' batting average in that span. That's why they're still interested in Avery, despite not picking up the option on his contract for 2000.
You're going to win with pitching, Bowden said, repeating his mantra. We scored more runs than the Big Red Machine, and we had a good defensive club, but the fact that we were fourth in the league in pitching and our bullpen was first was why we won 96 games.
Avery, who turns 30 on April 14, still has time to recapture the form that helped him win 47 games between 1991-93. Rehabilitating his shoulder has left him feeling stronger than ever, though he realized that this doesn't necessarily guarantee prolonged health or increased velocity.
My last 10 throws (Monday) were 100 times better than at any point last year, probably, he said. It's kind of weird to be at the start of February without a team. But I'm as excited coming into this year as I've been in awhile, because of the way I've felt.
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