Notes: Harang richer, fitter this spring

Notes: Harang richer, fitter

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Reds starter Aaron Harang has no intention of getting fat with his fat new contract.

Harang, the National League strikeouts leader in 2006, came to camp this week noticeably slimmer. The 6-foot-7 right-hander said he weighed 274 at the end of last season, and he arrived at Spring Training at 257 pounds.

"I wanted to come in the best shape I could," Harang said.

The 28-year-old has come in a little lighter than the previous season with each camp. This time, Harang credited going on the Zone Diet for his weight loss, but he didn't always enjoy it at first.

"The biggest thing is portions [control]," Harang said. "The first week I got on the diet, and I was complaining to my wife that I was starving. All the time I felt like I was eating nothing. Then, I got used to it and everything was fine. You don't realize how small serving portions are until you get on something like that where it's regulated."

Working with a personal trainer near his San Diego home also helped shed some pounds.

"I also worked out three times a week with my trainer," Harang said. "He never let me miss a session, I'll tell you that much. If I missed a session during the week, I had to make it up with him on the weekend."

Last season, Harang was 16-11 with a 3.76 ERA in 36 games. He was among the National League's most consistent pitchers with 234 1/3 innings worked and had a league-leading 216 strikeouts and six complete games. He was also tied for the league lead in victories.

"If I drop too much, it'll affect overall how I do," Harang said of his weight loss. "I'm not going to change too much."

On Feb. 6, Harang was rewarded with a new four-year, $36.5 million contract that avoided arbitration.

Road trips, fast food and postgame meal spreads will likely cause havoc on the best of dieters in the Reds clubhouse.

"I try not to eat fast food when I can. You can't completely cut it out," Harang said. "There are going to be times that it'll be easier to just grab that. But you have to make healthy choices. Some of the fast food places are giving you healthier options."

Nuxie pops in: Reds broadcasting legend checked out of Sarasota Memorial Hospital on Tuesday and briefly stopped by the club's Spring Training complex around midday. Nuxhall, who was recently diagnosed with a return of lymphoma, had a commitment and did not speak with reporters. The 78-year-old is expected to return for a longer visit on Wednesday.

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New rules: Before pitchers and catchers began their workout Tuesday morning, the club held a meeting with Major League officials about new rule changes for 2007.

Major League Baseball vice president of on-field operations Bob Watson, umpire Charlie Reliford and umpire supervisor Marty Springstead went over 23 rule changes. Few were expected to be ground-shaking.

"Many of the rules reflect what's already been in practice," Reliford said.

"It was good," Reds catcher David Ross said of the meeting. "Just some wording and things, but it was nothing drastic. It was good to hear the umpires' perspective."

One more noticeable change will be how dropped third strikes are handled by umpires from now on. If the batter leaves the area around home plate before he starts running, he will be called out and not allowed to go to first base.

"The umpire will have discretion to stay that's far enough," Reliford said. "We were trying to avoid the situation at the end of an inning where a guy is two-thirds of the way to left field and somebody goes by and yells, 'Run!' Then you just have absolute chaos."

The officials also informed the players that a new strike zone evaluation tool, called Z.E., would be installed at all 30 ballparks at some point this season. Z.E. will replace QuesTec systems, which are in place at less than half the league's stadiums.

Some long hauls: One alteration not made for 2007, to some of the Reds' dismay, was schedule re-alignment. The unbalanced schedule continues to feature a majority of games vs. division rivals and far less against the rest of the National League.

"I'd love to see the schedule changed where you play everybody in your league nine times at least," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "I think that would be easy to do."

The Reds were given a particularly challenging 2007 road schedule. They will have a Major League-high six road trips of at least 10 days this season. That includes four 10-day journeys and a pair of 11-day road trips.

No other club has even five 10-day trips this season. The Yankees and Rockies are second with four 10-day jaunts scheduled.

Coming up: Wednesday marks the scheduled report date for Reds position players. A majority of them, including most recent arrivals Brandon Phillips and Edwin Encarnacion, have already checked in.

After morning physicals on Thursday, full-squad workouts will begin that afternoon.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.