Harang gets repeat Opening Day nod

Harang gets repeat Opening Day nod

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- For the second consecutive season, Aaron Harang will start Opening Day for the Reds.

Harang will start against the Cubs and right-hander Carlos Zambrano on Monday at 2:10 p.m. ET at Great American Ball Park.

The decision is not surprising. Since the beginning of Spring Training games, Harang's turn in the rotation lined up perfectly for him to start next Monday. But on Tuesday, Reds manager Jerry Narron said he didn't deliver the news to his pitcher, officially, until the previous Monday.

"He was pretty excited, for Harang," Narron joked, poking fun at Harang's mild-mannered demeanor.

Harang, who is the first Reds pitcher to start back-to-back openers for Cincinnati since Pete Harnisch in 2000-01, was pleased with the assignment.

"It's always an honor to be able to throw on Opening Day," he said. "It gives me another opportunity to redeem myself from last year against the Cubs, too. I'm looking forward to it."

On Opening Day 2006, also against the Cubs, Harang had one of his worst starts of the season. In a 16-7 defeat, he allowed nine runs, six earned, and nine hits over five innings.

The bad first game had little implication on Harang's overall season performance. He finished 16-11 with a 3.76 ERA in 36 games last season and tied for the league lead with 35 starts. His 216 strikeouts and six complete games led the National League.

The career year earned Harang a four-year, $36.5 million contract in February.

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Harang has pitched 200 innings the past two seasons and Narron believed the 28-year-old could easily continue a positive run in 2007.

"Anytime a guy can go out there and give you 200-plus innings, and he's capable of that, he's capable of a real big year," Narron said. "Then it comes down to how well we play behind him and how many runs we score for him. We have a real good feel when he's out there. We all have a lot of confidence that we'll be in the ballgame and that he'll give us a quality start every time out."

Other than to say that right-hander Bronson Arroyo would start Wednesday's second game vs. Chicago, Narron declined to name the rest of his probable starters. Eric Milton and Kyle Lohse are both pitching in Saturday's final exhibition vs. the Marlins at Dayton. A fifth starter, who has yet to be named, isn't needed until April 8.

"When we know exactly the order it'll be, we'll let you know," Narron said.

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