Wednesday, March 12, 2003

--->Reds Notebook

By John Fay and Kevin Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SARASOTA, Fla. - When Dustin Moseley and Bobby Basham were brought up to the big-league camp, it begged the question: Where's Ty Howington?

Howington, a 22-year-old left-hander, was drafted higher and had better minor-league numbers than Basham or Moseley until last year.

But Howington had been dealing with a nagging case of tendinitis - until Tuesday, that is.

Howington faced hitters for the first time this spring and looked like the guy the Reds made the 14th pick in the 1999 draft.

"That was very encouraging," minor-league pitching coordinator Sammy Ellis said. "That's the best I've seen him throw in a couple of years - not velocity, because he wasn't trying to throw hard - but the ball was jumping out of his hand and smacking the mitt. He had a good changeup and curveball."

Howington will pitch in a game the next time out. He was relieved by Tuesday's session.

"It's the best I've felt in a long time," he said.

Howington was at a loss to explain why he suddenly had his stuff back.

"I have no idea," he said. "The first pitch I threw felt good. I started picking up the velocity and it still felt good."

Last season was a tough one for Howington. He pitched 42/3 innings of perfect ball in a major-league game in spring training.

But shoulder problems limited him to a 2-6 record with a 4.81 ERA in 17 starts. The season before, he climbed from low Single-A to Double-A and had a combined record of 8-5 with a 2.30 ERA.

He has been searching for that form since.

"It's been frustrating," he said, "because it was just nagging things."

That Moseley and Basham are in the big-league mix adds to Howington's frustration.

"I want them to do good," he said. "But I want to be there, too."

HARNISCH PASSES: Pete Harnisch, who is recovering from ligament-replacement surgery on his right elbow, passed the latest test on his comeback road Tuesday. He threw 60 pitches in three segments of a simulated game.

"No problems," pitching coach Don Gullett said. "If he's OK (today), we're going to get him in a game somewhere."

Harnisch was suffering from a stomach virus but still threw well.

"He continues to progress," Gullett said.

The plan is for Harnisch to throw 40 pitches or two innings when he does pitch in a game. He's scheduled for that Friday.

WILSON UPDATE: Paul Wilson, out since Feb. 26 with a pulled rib cage muscle, threw a bullpen session Tuesday.

The plan is for him to pitch Thursday when the Reds go to Fort Lauderdale to play Baltimore.

DEMPSTER'S DAY: Ryan Dempster became the first Red to go six innings in a game this spring, in Tuesday's 6-5 victory over Tampa Bay.

Dempster (2-0) got the win and allowed three runs on eight hits. He struck out one and walked none, throwing only 64 pitches.

"It was good," he said. "I was real aggressive. They got a couple of extra-base hits in the sixth, but overall it was good."

KEARNS RETURNS: Mariners reliever Jeff Nelson made headlines in May when, as a joke, he attempted to auction on eBay some bone chips surgically removed from his right elbow.

The bidding reached $23,600 before the Web site shut down the auction, citing its policy of not allowing the sale of body parts.

Austin Kearns has no such plans for the three "loose bodies" removed from his left elbow Monday.

"I didn't want them," the right-fielder said. "But my mom took them home."

His left arm heavily bandaged from wrist to shoulder, Kearns returned to camp Tuesday and began rehabilitation exercises. He is expected to return in seven to 10 days.

"It's sore," said Kearns, who had difficulty extending his left arm before the surgery. "I just wanted to get it over with so I wouldn't have to do it during the season."

GETTING CLOSE: Third baseman Brandon Larson, who has a sprained rib-cage muscle on his right side and hasn't appeared in a spring game since March 2, played in a minor-league game Tuesday.

"I'm just trying to get healthy," he said. "I can play right now. I could've played when I hurt it, but you don't want to chance anything.

"I had some at-bats (Tuesday) and my timing was a little off. That's just from not playing. I've just got to keep at it and be careful."

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