By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HOUSTON - In their search for pitching, the Reds will bring in just about anyone who has a history of major-league success. Albie Lopez is the latest in a long line of released pitchers to be given a shot by the Reds.
Lopez hasn't been given a contract - yet. He threw a bullpen session for manager Bob Boone and pitching coach Don Gullett.
"His stuff looked pretty good," Boone said. "He's polished. He's got all the pitches."
Lopez will throw for Boone and Gullett again Thursday. Then they'll make a decision on him.
This year alone they have signed Todd Van Poppel, Jamie Navarro and Joey Hamilton to minor-league deals after they were released by other clubs. Hamilton pitched briefly with the Reds. Van Poppel is currently with the club.
Lopez, 31, a right-hander, was released by Kansas City on June 18. The Royals ate his $1.5 million contract. He was 4-2 with a 12.74 ERA when he was released. He had allowed 42 hits and walked 17 in 22 2/3 innings.
Lopez has pitched 10 years in the big leagues. His last good year was 1998 when he went 7-4 with a 2.60 ERA with Tampa Bay.
"I felt pretty good (Tuesday) for not being on the mound in two weeks," Lopez said.
LOUISVILLE EFFECT: Wonder what effect signing Lopez would have at Triple-A Louisville, where the Reds would send him?
Two pitchers - Carlos Almanzar and Josias Manzanillo - walked out when the Reds promoted Van Poppel. They remain suspended without pay.
"(General manager) Jim Bowden is handling Manzanillo," Reds director of player development Tim Naehring said. "It sounds like he may come back. I've talked to Almanzar and his agent. He's ready to shut it down for the year."
MORE LOUISVILLE: Dustin Moseley, a first-round pick in 2000, is going to get at least a spot start at Louisville.
"He's had success," Naehring said, "and with these guys taking a vacation in the middle of the year, we need pitching there."
Moseley is 5-5 with a 3.82 ERA at Double-A Chattanooga.
MERCKER PASSES: Kent Mercker had no problems in his 25-pitch simulated game Tuesday. "I felt good," he said. "I'll play catch (today), then get ready for Thursday."
Mercker is eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday. He has been on the DL since June 28 with a sprained lower back.
Gabe White pitched one inning in Louisville Tuesday, allowing a run on two hits. White (groin strain) could be activated today.
KEARNS, LaRUE OUT: Austin Kearns (right shoulder) and Jason LaRue (left shoulder) were out of the starting lineup again Tuesday.
"LaRue could play," Boone said. "He's as good as he was Friday when I played him. But I want to give him another day. I don't want to have to take him out."
Boone hopes the rest will help Kearns' shoulder.
"I'm hoping to give him a couple of days," Boone said.
The other part, of course, is Boone has four outfielders and three places to play them.
DEMPSTER TALKS: Ryan Dempster said he wasn't avoiding the media Monday night.
"I had a hot date," he said. "My fiancee was in town for one night."
Dempster also wasn't pleased with his four-inning, six-run outing.
"I've already put that behind me," he said. "I'm all positive. I'm looking forward to having a good second half."
Dempster says he's OK with the four-man rotation. He was skeptical when the move was made.
"More starts, more chances to win," he said. "A lot of times, you'll throw on three days' rest and think: 'I feel great. I wish I was throwing today.' "
FARM REPORT: Ty Howington pitched another gem at Single-A Potomac. He threw eight innings of one-run, four-hit ball in the Cannons' 2-1 win over Salem. He struck out nine and walked only one.
"He's had a lot of arm problems," Naehring said. "I think that forced him to learn how to pitch. Now he's healthy, and we're seeing the results."
Howington is throwing consistently in the low 90s. He has 39 strikeouts in 32 innings with a 0.84 ERA over his last five starts.
Naehring said the plan is to leave Howington at Potomac for at least a few more starts, then move him to Chattanooga.
"If he's successful there, he can be in the mix with the Reds in 2004," Naehring said.
PROKOPEC SURGERY: Luke Prokopec, a Rule 5 selection, had surgery Tuesday to re-repair his torn labrum and will be out for a year.
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