Thursday, April 22, 2004

Wagner eager for a fresh start

By John Fay and Kevin Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ryan Wagner was hoping to get back out on the mound in Wednesday's game.

"Oh yeah, I want to get out there as soon as possible," Wagner said.

Getting back out there would put his Monday outing a little farther in baseball's rear view mirror.

Wagner, a 21-year-old rookie right-hander, gave up five runs on six hits without retiring a batter in Monday's 8-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

"I've had bad outings," Wagner said. "But never like that. Never one where I didn't get anyone out."

Wagner will get more chances with the game on the line.

"We'll give Wags more opportunities," Reds manager Dave Miley said. "He had a couple of rough outings. But he's had some good ones, too."

Wagner hasn't spent a lot of time figuring out what happened in the outing against the Cubs. He hasn't even watched video of it.

"I know what happened," he said. "I got the ball up."

Most of the damage Wagner has allowed has come on two swings - a three-run homer and a grand slam.

"I feel fine," he said. "My velocity's good. I've just got to keep the ball down."

For what might have been the first time in his career, Sean Casey hit a home run and felt something other than pure joy Wednesday.

FRIENDLY BLAST: First baseman Sean Casey put the Reds ahead 5-4 in the eighth inning with a two-run home run off good friend and former teammate Chris Reitsma. It was Casey's second home run of the game.

"That's just the way it goes," Casey said afterward. "Next time he might screw me in the ground with that change-up."

Casey went on to express his sadness over the March trade that sent Reitsma to the Braves for two pitching prospects.

"I don't think we should have ever gotten rid of him," said Casey, who finished 3-for-4 with four RBI and is hitting .423 this season. "He's such a great guy. He's such a great pitcher. He's nasty man. He's flat out nasty.

"The bottom line is he makes the Braves so much better. I wish he was still over here."

NO HARD FEELINGS: Both benches and bullpens cleared in the first inning when Casey collided with Atlanta catcher Eddie Perez at home plate.

Casey was tagged out, and as he lay on the ground Perez dropped the ball into his lap. An upset Casey picked up the ball and threw it at Perez.

Order was restored shortly after players came onto the field.

"I tried to knock the ball out and as I was on the ground he just dropped the ball on me," Casey said. "I kind of took offense to it. He apologized to me in my next at-bat."

NOT FORGOTTEN: The Reds are now 7-2 when their pitcher turns in a quality start.

Aaron Harang allowed two runs on four hits, but walked four in six innings Wednesday.

"I was just missing with some pitches. That's why my walks were up and why I was going deep in the count," he said. "They're a good hitting ball club, very patient but aggressive at the same time."

JIMENEZ'S SLIDE: D'Angelo Jimenez got himself into a slump by hitting three hard line drives off Kerry Wood right at people.

"That's when it started," Jimenez said.

The three hard outs against Wood started Jimenez on an 0-fer streak that reached 22 at-bats following an 0-for-5 Wednesday. That dropped his batting average from .364 to .218.

"You've got to keep swinging," Jimenez said. "I'm taking the same approach. Sooner or later, you'll find holes."

LARSON UPDATE: Reds general manager Dan O'Brien said Brandon Larson will play all three games of Louisville's series at Columbus, which began Wednesday night.

That means the soonest Larson, who is rehabbing a turf toe injury, could join the Reds would be Saturday for the second game of the series against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

Larson homered in Wednesday's 7-4 loss to the Columbus Clippers.

In that game, starter Brandon Claussen (0-1) gave up six runs in 4 1/3 innings. He allowed 10 hits, walked two and struck out five.

UP NEXT: The Reds wrap up the three-game series with the Braves today with a 12:35 p.m. game.

Right-hander Cory Lidle (1-1, 3.79 ERA) faces right-hander Jaret Wright (1-0, 2.25). Lidle allowed two runs in seven innings against the Cubs in his last outing but didn't get a decision.

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