Harang works six hitless innings

Published 1:04 am Monday, March 23, 2009

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Aaron Harang’s rough March smoothed out considerably with an unusual performance for the relaxed world of spring training, where velocity, control and pitch selection matter much more than results.

He didn’t allow a hit.

The Reds right-hander bounced back from a bad start to hold the Pittsburgh Pirates without a hit for six innings Sunday, facing only two batters over the minimum while pitching the Reds to a 6-0 victory.

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Pittsburgh, which got a similar but not quite-as-good start Saturday from Paul Maholm while beating Cincinnati 6-5, managed one hit each against relievers Mike Lincoln and David Weathers to avoid the embarrassment of being no-hit in a game that didn’t count.

‘‘I was working on my changeup and slider,’’ said Harang, the Reds’ scheduled opening day starter. ‘‘I feel good because I was throwing them in counts that I wouldn’t normally throw them. I kept it down and kept them off balance. It’s good to know you can throw them in any count.’’

Especially considering that Harang had little command while giving up six runs, all earned, and seven hits in 3 1-3 innings Tuesday against the Phillies.

‘‘That’s as good an outing as I’ve seen in a while,’’ Reds manager Dusty Baker said after Harang lowered his ERA from 7.24 to 5.03. ‘‘It feels good to win one. … He threw some great breaking balls.’’

Pirates manager John Russell wasn’t discouraged even though his team was limited to singles by Nate McLouth and Craig Monroe. A strong wind in the 25-to-30 mph range that blew in from center field held up some well-hit balls by both teams.

‘‘We hit some balls hard,’’ said Russell, whose team’s 29 homers were the most of any major league team going into Sunday’s games. ‘‘I think we had more harder-hit balls than we did yesterday (Saturday). They happened to be right at guys and the wind picked up a couple.’’

The Reds had plenty of offense against Ian Snell in the right-hander’s first start for Pittsburgh since Feb. 26, with Paul Janish and Darnell McDonald contributing two-run doubles in a five-run second inning. Despite leaving all of their position player regulars back in Sarasota, the Reds had 11 hits against five Pirates pitchers.

‘‘It’s spring training and you have to get you work in and, unfortunately, I got blasted,’’ Snell said. ‘‘It’s my first time back with the team throwing, and I’ve got to get back in the swing of things.’’

The Reds had no problems swinging the bats, with Jonny Gomes hitting a solo homer in the fifth before Snell was lifted because of a large blister along the side of his right foot. Snell hadn’t pitched since last Monday, when he made the second of his two starts for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.

‘‘It (the blister) just started coming up in the second inning, but I didn’t want to say anything,’’ Snell said. ‘‘It kept getting worse. I was afraid to push off and let the ball go. That’s what spring training’s for, to get your work in, but I just couldn’t get loose.’’

Snell gave up six runs and nine hits, striking out three and walking two.

‘‘It was kind of awkward, kind of different, because I haven’t played for these guys in a while,’’ Snell said. ‘‘I needed to get hit around a little bit and see where I’m at.’’

McDonald has only 21 at-bats in the majors since 2004, but had hits in each of his first three at-bats to raise his spring average to .382.

‘‘We had some good offensive games from a few guys. McDonald keeps showing more and more,’’ Baker said. ‘‘You can see he has talent offensively and defensively, stealing bases.’’

Notes: Maholm allowed only three hits during six shutout innings Saturday. … Pirates RHP Evan Meek (tired shoulder) and INF Andy Phillips (sore back) are expected to be out about a week apiece. … Josh Roenicke also pitched a scoreless inning for Cincinnati.