By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
ARLINGTON, Texas — When Aaron Harang steps onto the mound at Great American Ballpark on Friday, it will be the first time he’s done so in something other than a Cincinnati Reds uniform.
Sure, he’s faced his old team as a member of the San Diego Padres in spring training in 2011 and as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers last season in Dodger Stadium. But he’s never pitched against the Reds in Cincinnati — a place he called home for eight seasons.
So, is he nervous, excited or indifferent to the homecoming?
“You know, I haven’t even really thought about it,” he said. “I think the biggest one was actually the first time I went back there with the opposing team. I definitely feel more comfortable pitching there than I would here (Arlington). It didn’t bother me at all when I found out I wasn’t pitching here and I was pitching there.”
Harang has made 112 starts and one relief appearance at Great American Ballpark with the Reds, posting a 37-39 record with a 4.19 ERA.
It’s not a very pitcher friendly park by reputation. The park yields plenty of home runs. But it doesn’t faze Harang.
“It’s kind of like Colorado,” he said. “Everybody has that mental idea of being there. Yeah, the ball does seem to fly there more, but you have to go in knowing it and don’t have runners on base when their big guys come to bat. Make sure you limit walks, and execute your pitches.”
Harang believes it also can affect visiting hitters when they go in there in a negative way.
“The hitters get all excited,” he said. “The biggest thing is the guys have to go in there and keep their same plan. Not go in and try to hit homers. You see that a lot, too, from the visiting team, them coming in and trying to hit home runs, because they know the stigma of the stadium. I think if we go in, keep the same approach we have down here, guys have been swinging the bat well.”
Harang knows he will be facing a good team when he steps on the mound. The Reds are 49-36 on the season, and made it to the National League playoffs two out of the last three years. Harang was on the 2010 team that was swept by the Phillies in the first round.
He was with the Reds when all-stars like Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips and slugger Jay Bruce were just beginning their careers.
“Later in my career, those guys were starting to come up,” Harang said. “And it’s a big core group of good guys. It’s been fun watching their progression, watching the young guys’ progression.”
Harang is also good friends with pitcher Homer Bailey, who just threw the second no-hitter of his career in his last start. “I was fortunate enough to be there when Homer first came up and was able to talk with a lot and work with him and watch him grow and mature and really learn himself and learn what it takes to be a successful pitcher,” Harang said. “I still text him. I texted him the other night congratulations on the second one.”
Harang is looking forward to the pseudo-homecoming.
“I’ve got to go back the last two years,” he said. “I had lunch with some of my neighbors, see friends, see all the security guys on the field, the clubhouse guys. You see a lot of people around Cincinnati. I spent so much of my time there it was like a second home for me. It’s always fun to go back.”
Updated pitching probables
With the Reds’ game on Fourth of July cancelled because of rain, their starting rotation was pushed back a day. That means the Mariners won’t face Homer Bailey in the series. Instead, they will face right-handers Mike Leake (Friday), Mat Latos (Saturday) and Bronson Arroyo (Sunday). Thursday’s rainout was just the seventh in Great American Ballpark history. But forecasts for the weekend are calling for thundershowers on all three days.