Young pitchers battle for Reds' rotation spot
Germano sharp vs. Toronto; Gosling gets turn today
By Hal McCoy / Dayton Daily News
DUNEDIN, Fla. | The spectre of Paul Wilson not being ready to perform when the season opens leaves a line of question marks strung out across the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation.
While Wilson works diligently daily to strengthen his surgically repaired shoulder, there remains the main question: What if?
As of now, 17 days away from Opening Day, the alternatives are lefthanded Mike Gosling or righthanded Justin Germano.
Gosling and Germano both have limited major-league experience, but if Gosling is the guy it places four lefthanders in the rotation — Brandon Claussen, Eric Milton, Dave Williams and Gosling.
If that's a problem, manager Jerry Narron is acknowledging it and all but says if a guy can dropkick the ball over the plate and retire major-league hitters, so be it.
"It doesn't matter to me," said Narron. "We'll take the guy who gets the most people out and can do the job. We're just looking for people to get hitters out and give us a chance to win."
Germano, 23, started Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays and was good, even better than Roy Halladay, who this week signed a $40 million three-year contract extension
Germano, hoping for a big-league contract at minimum wage, held the B-Jays to one run on six hits over four innings, walking none and striking out two, in a 9-2 win. The run was a home run by Eric Hinske, who homers against the best.
"That was my fault," said Germano. "I left a fastball over the plate and you can't do that to a hitter like him. I was happy with today, even though I'm still searching for command of my off-speed stuff.
"A chance to win a spot in the rotation is definitely in the back of my mind, but I don't want to add pressure and think if I don't pitch will I won't make the team."
Germano was acquired last July 23 from San Diego in the Joe Randa trade and was 3-2 with a 4.01 ERA in eight starts at Class AAA Louisville after he was 7-6 with a 3.70 ERA for Class AAA Portland before the trade.
His major-league experience is five starts and two relief appearances for the 2004 Padres — 1-2, 8.86 ERA in 21 1/3 innings.
Gosling, 25, starts today in Bradenton against the Pittsburgh Pirates and so far this spring he is 1-0 with a 5.68 ERA over three appearances covering 6 1/3 innings. His major-league experience is 19 games, nine starts, for Arizona and he is 1-4 with a 4.53 ERA.
With the hunt for pitchers who can get hitters out, a question arose: How about Homer Bailey. He is only 19, but the team's No. 1 draft pick in 2004 has pitched this spring with the style and grace of a 29-year-old veteran.
And it hasn't escaped Narron's eye.
"It would be interesting to see what he would do with 34 major-league starts this year," said Narron. "But sometimes what is good for the long haul is better than for the short haul.
"One of the things I like about Homer is that he doesn't want to be in the big leagues now, he wants to be a great major-league pitcher later," Narron added. "He understands the process of pitching in the minor leagues to learn and get better."
While Narron sees greatness ahead in the 6-4, 205-pound righthander who was 8-4 with a 4.43 ERA in 21 starts and seven relief appearances last year for the Class A Dayton Dragons, he sees a learning curve, too.
"He has to learn to get ahead in the count and put guys away early," Narron said. "He throws a lot pitches because his stuff is so good batters can't square the ball on the bat and they foul off a lot of pitches.
"We want to give him the chance to be great, so we'll keep pitching him and do what's best for him," he added.