When Aaron Harang steps onto the mound at Great American Ball Park on Friday, it will be the first time he’s done so in something other than a Cincinnati Reds uniform.
He has faced his former team as a member of the San Diego Padres in spring training in 2011 and with the Los Angeles Dodger last season in Dodger Stadium. But he has never pitched against the Reds in Cincinnati – a place he called home for eight seasons.
So, is he nervous, excited or indifferent to the homecoming?
“You know, I haven’t even really thought about it,” he said. “I think the biggest one was actually the first time I went back there with the opposing team (Padres). I definitely feel more comfortable pitching there than I would here (Arlington). It didn’t bother me at all when I found out I wasn’t pitching here and I was pitching there.”
Harang has made 112 starts and one relief appearance at the Great American Ball Park with the Reds, posting a 37-39 record with a 4.19 ERA.
It’s not a pitcher-friendly park by reputation. The place yields plenty of home runs. But that doesn’t faze Harang.
“It’s kind of like Colorado,” he said. “Everybody has that mental idea of being there. Yeah, the ball does seem to fly there more, but you have to go in knowing it and don’t have runners on base when their big guys come to bat. Make sure you limit walks, and execute your pitches.”
Harang thinks the park also can affect visiting hitters in a negative way.
“The hitters get all excited,” he said. “The biggest thing is the guys have to go in there and keep their same plan. Not go in and try to hit homers. You see that a lot, too, from the visiting team; them coming in and trying to hit home runs because they know the (reputation) of the stadium.”
Harang knows he will be facing a good team in the Reds, who have a 49-36 record and have made it to the National League playoffs two out of the last three years. He was on the 2010 team that was swept by the Phillies in the first round.
Harang was with the Reds when All-Stars such as Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce were just beginning their careers.
“It’s been fun watching their progression,” Harang said. “And it’s a big core group of good guys.”
Harang is also good friends with pitcher Homer Bailey, who just threw the second no-hitter of his career in his last start.
“I was fortunate enough to be there when Homer first came up and was able to talk with him a lot and work with him and watch him grow and mature and … learn what it takes to be a successful pitcher,” Harang said. “I texted him the other night congratulations on the second (no-hitter).”
With the Reds’ game against the Giants on Thursday postponed because of rain, their starting rotation was pushed back a day. That means the Mariners won’t face Bailey in the series.
Instead, they will get right-handers Mike Leake (Friday), Mat Latos (Saturday) and Bronson Arroyo (Sunday). Thursday’s rainout was just the seventh in Great American Ball Park history. But forecasts for the weekend are calling for thundershowers on all three days.
The Mariners open a three-game series in Cincinnati at 4:10 p.m. Friday with Harang (3-7, 5.08 ERA) starting against Reds right-hander Mike Leake (7-3, 2.52). The game will be broadcast on Root Sports, 1030-AM and 710-AM