BY JOHN FAY | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
SARASOTA, Fla. - Reds manager Jerry Narron is ready to set the rotation.
If Paul Wilson is healthy, Narron said the rotation will be Aaron Harang, Brandon Claussen, Wilson, Eric Milton and Dave Williams (in no particular order).
"Barring trades or injuries, yeah," Narron said.
What about performance?
"Barring trades and injuries."
Narron made those comments before Dave Williams, making his Reds debut, allowed five runs (two earned) in the first inning against the Kia Tigers of Korea.
Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky isn't quite ready to commit to the rotation."If you're talking in a vacuum, yeah," Krivsky said. "We haven't played a game yet."
Krivsky said he understands Narron's reasoning on the starting rotation.
"If you go on past history, it makes sense to make that kind of statement," he said.
But Krivsky added that he doesn't want to ignore spring training results.
"We're here to compete," Krivsky said.
"We play a month's worth of games. You don't want to take anything for granted. I think competition is good," Krivsky added.
The chances that the Reds would add outside help greatly diminished Monday, when the team broke off talks with Pedro Astacio. Astacio subsequently signed with Washington.
A trade is still possible, but don't look for anything to happen soon.
"I'm always trying to improve the team any way I can," Krivsky said. "But let's get into (exhibition) games. Let's see these guys compete. There's enough competition here that I hope they make it tough on Jerry to pick the 11 or 10 (pitchers) at the end."
Still, based on track records, it's hard to imagine the Reds going with any combination other than Harang, Claussen, Wilson, Milton and Williams - if Wilson is healthy.
Those five combined to go 40-55 last year with a 4.54 ERA. Only one of the five pitched more than 200 innings (Harang, 2112/3).
That doesn't exactly fill the fans' hearts with optimism.
But the Reds think things could improve based on two things:
Milton and Wilson had track records as effective big-league pitchers before last year. In 2005, Milton was 8-15 with a 6.47 ERA, while Wilson was 1-5 with a 7.77 ERA. The Reds are hoping those numbers were an aberration.
Harang, Claussen and Williams, who are all 27 years old or younger, should improve with another year's experience.
"Claussen and Harang were our most consistent pitchers last year," Narron said. "With experience, they have a chance to be better. Dave Williams has a good breaking ball. He changes speeds and he's an outstanding competitor."
It appears Wilson will be ready - or at least very close to ready - when the season starts.
Wilson had shoulder surgery in July, suffered a slight setback at the beginning of camp, but is on track again.
He threw 70 pitches in a bullpen session Tuesday.
"It went well," he said. "The last 20 were better than the first 20."
The Reds have no firm date when Wilson will pitch in an exhibition game.
"I'm champing at the bit to get out there," Wilson said. "But we don't want to get in that roller coaster chase."
"We don't want to rush Paul," Krivsky said. "He's had a great rehab so far. We don't want to see him do anything to take him off the roll he seems to be on."
If Wilson isn't ready, righty Justin Germano or lefty Michael Gosling likely will take his place.
"We'll see how it shakes out at the end," Krivsky said.