Starting Nod

Published 3:01 am Thursday, March 4, 2010

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Aaron Harang was selected by Reds manager Dusty Baker to be Cincinnati’s Opening Day starter for a team record-tying fifth straight season.

Baker said Wednesday that he struggled with the choice between Harang and Bronson Arroyo, and he talked with both before deciding to hand the ball to Harang. Baker said Harang seems to pitch better against the other team’s best starter and is confident in taking the hill for the season’s first game.

“We wrestled with it big time,” Baker said. “Confidence-wise and innings-wise, we decided it made more sense.”

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Harang is coming off a 6-14 season, while Arroyo led the staff in 2009 with a 15-13 record and 220 1/3 innings.

Mario Soto was the last Reds pitcher to open five straight seasons, from 1982-86, and Pete Donohue also started five straight openers beginning in 1923. The Reds host the St. Louis Cardinals on April 5. Soto holds the Reds’ overall mark for opening day starts with six.

Opening Day is a big annual event in Cincinnati, with a downtown parade and on-field pregame ceremonies.

“You have to have a different approach with all the hoopla,” Harang said. “After you’ve done it once, you know how to do it.”

He was excited about the news, but said he believed Arroyo deserved the honor.

“Harang has been throwing the ball really well,” Baker said. “By talking to both of them, we came up with the decision. Bronson doesn’t care whether he’s fourth or fifth.”

Baker also said he doesn’t plan to pitch Harang and Arroyo back-to-back in the rotation. Because they can be relied on to pitch deep into games, he thinks splitting them up will make sure his bullpen isn’t overworked.

“If you have the two together and the others don’t give you innings, then you have to use up your ’pen,” Baker said.