Sunday, March 16, 2003

Injuries slow down RHP Wilson

Projected starter is missing crucial time to strengthen arm

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Paul Wilson's minor problems are becoming a major concern for the Reds.

Wilson, the projected No. 4 starter, is nursing a pulled hamstring and unable to throw off the mound. With less than 2 1/2 weeks left in spring training, time is running out for him to be ready to begin the season in the rotation.

"That's an understatement," pitching coach Don Gullett said.

Wilson, a 30-year-old right-hander, hasn't pitched in a game and isn't scheduled to.

"We're going to wait until the hamstring is OK," Gullett said.

Wilson long tossed from 120 feet Saturday and will do that again today. If all goes well, he'll pitch in a minor league game Monday.

The Reds have shifted Wilson to the fifth starting spot, so he wouldn't pitch until April 6.

The injury is minor. But so was the pulled rib cage muscle that had Wilson out from Feb. 27 to March 7. Wilson needs to build arm strength to go at least five or six innings.

"The injuries aren't serious," Gullett said. "But they're serious enough that he can't go out and get in pitching shape. That takes time. It's a shame because he's a good kid and he's worked hard."

The Reds have alternatives. Chris Reitsma, Seth Etherton and Jimmy Anderson are competing for the fifth starting spot. Pete Harnisch, who today will pitch for the first time this spring, , will be in that mix as well if he continues to progress in his comeback from ligament replacement surgery.

The Reds could start the season with two from that group in the No. 4 and No. 5 starting spots if Wilson can't get ready in time.

In fact, one of those four pitchers is likely to make the third start of the season.

The Reds are working on setting up the rotation. Jimmy Haynes and Ryan Dempster will be No. 1 and 2. But the projected No. 3 starter, Danny Graves, has been slowed by a sore right knee. He'll probably go fourth in the rotation.

"We're lining that up," Reds manager Bob Boone said. "We can buy some time with the fourth and fifth spots."

Graves and Wilson could stay behind in Florida after the Reds return north and make a start in a minor league game, if needed.

Graves is closer to being ready. He's missed only one start because of the knee. He's scheduled to start Monday against the Florida Marlins in Sarasota.

"We don't anticipate him having any trouble," Gullett said.



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