Claussen, Harang move up
From back of rotation to front
BY JOHN FAY | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
SARASOTA, Fla. - Pitchers Aaron Harang and Brandon Claussen improved enough from 2004 to 2005 that manager Jerry Narron is ready to put them at the front of the current rotation.
"Based on last year, you'd have to put them on the top," Narron said. "They were the most consistent."
But if the Reds are going to do better this season than last season, Harang and Claussen are going to have to make the same kind of leap in '06.
"Every year, I try to come in and do better than the last year," Harang said. "I think for Brandon and me, the key is being more consistent. Stay at a high level all year."
Harang, 27, a right-hander, and Claussen, 26, a lefty, are linked because they came to the team a day apart. Both were obtained during the great fire sale/rebuilding job of 2003.
They were brought in for future.
The future is now.
This is Harang's third year in the rotation. He has shown the ability to be a dominant pitcher at times. He went 11-13 with a 3.83 ERA last season. He was voted the winner of the Johnny Vander Meer Award as the Reds' top pitcher.
He shaved a run off his ERA from 2004, going from 4.86 to 3.83. He also pitched a career-high 2112/3 innings, exceeding his career-high by 50.
But a June swoon kept him from having a really good year. Harang was 0-4 with 6.67 ERA over five starts in the month. He was 11-9 with a 3.33 ERA the rest of the season.
Again, consistency is the goal.
"I don't want to have those bad starts," he said.
Claussen made even a bigger jump than Harang. He went from 2-8 with a 6.14 ERA in 2004 to 10-11 with 4.21 ERA in 2005.
He's hoping to make a similar leap.
"Everybody wants to improve from year to year," Claussen said. "I believe I will. I have confidence in all my pitches. I have confidence in the team around me. I think it's going to be a good year."
Claussen seemed to get over the hump late last season. He was 6-2 with a 2.92 ERA over a 12-start stretch from July to September. "Confidence was the biggest difference," he said. "That does a lot for an individual when your peers have confidence in you."
The Reds still need a solid No. 1 starter to build the rotation around, but if Harang and Claussen can move up from No. 4 or 5 types to No. 2 and 3 types, the franchise can start to move out of the long doldrums.
Narron saw the stuff from Harang and Claussen last year to do that. He's hopeful they can take the next step.
"With experience, everybody has a chance to get better," Narron said. "I don't care who you are in this game, you've got to continue to make adjustments and you've got to get better. Barry Bonds was a great player in the late '80s and (early) '90s. But he continued to make adjustments and got even better. It's all about getting better, never leveling off.
"That's what separates the great players for the marginal players."