Sunday, July 02, 2000
Harnisch return provides hope
By Chris Haft
he Cincinnati Enquirer
PHOENIX Ballplayers tend to discard each passing day as if it were stale chewing gum. But the Reds would like to savor Pete Harnisch's comeback victory for a long time through the rest of the season.
Having returned to his perch at the top of Cincinnati's starting rotation, Harnisch can stimulate the team toward greater heights, by his actions as well as by his mere presence.
Maybe that'll be the lift we need, Reds manager Jack McKeon said Saturday, referring to Harnisch's six-inning, two-run effort in Friday night's 5-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. You lead by example, basically. When he goes out there and busts his butt like he does, other guys see that.
Left-hander Denny Neagle, today's starter, said Harnisch's return after spending eight weeks on the disabled list strengthening his shoulder can serve as a rallying point.
A guy like Pete coming back can give a team a little spark, said Neagle, who helped the Reds last year with a strong second half after enduring similar shoulder problems. Everybody knows what Pete's been through. We know it was tough. Guys want to see him do well. A lot of times that type of feeling can rub off on everybody. Then maybe everybody starts pushing each other a little bit.
Twelve years in the majors have taught right fielder Dante Bichette the importance of having a charismatic pitcher such as Harnisch at full effectiveness.
When you have that ace, the rest of the guys kind of fall in line, do what they can do and end up pitching a lot better, Bichette said. When you're missing a big gun in that starting rotation, it seems like everybody tries to make up for it. And they can't. It's just like if we had (Ken) Griffey (Jr.) out of the lineup, you'd have guys swinging for the fences.
Harnisch hadn't pitched since May 5. He was 0-4 with 9.96 ERA when the Reds put him the DL to rehab his shoulder.
He struggled in the first innings Friday. He allowed four of the first five Diamondbacks he faced to reach base safely. Jay Bell, the second batter, hit a two-run home run.
I hadn't been out there in a long time, he said. It was a little weird being out there, but I think I got a little more comfortable after the first inning was over, and I got a little more aggressive.
Harnisch allowed only two hits after the first inning.
We couldn't put together any runs against Pete, Bell said. He kept the ball down better than I've seen him in a long time. We hit the ball well, but we just hit it at people all the time.
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