Notes: Milton wants fresh start in 2007
Lefty is hoping to rebound after subpar season, elbow surgery
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Despite coming off left elbow surgery late last season, there's still no holding back pitcher Eric Milton when he throws."Nope, I usually don't," Milton said. "As long as I feel good, it's a go." Milton had season-ending arthroscopic elbow surgery on Sept. 22 after he faced only seven hitters in what turned out to be his final start of 2006 in Chicago. Following his rehabilitation, the left-hander began throwing again on Jan. 2, and he just recently started working off a mound. "The last three, four weeks have been without a flaw. It's been perfect," said Milton, an early arrival to camp before Saturday's report date for pitchers and catchers. "I try to already be prepared when Spring Training gets here, and not have Spring Training get me in shape." Milton also reported no trouble with his left knee, which has endured three operations since 2002, most recently last April. He started seeing a new personal trainer this offseason in Fort Myers, Fla., and underwent a different set of exercises. "The knee has been perfect ever since," Milton said. "It helped me get my knee stronger." In 2006, Milton was 8-8 with a 5.19 ERA in 26 starts. It was an improvement from his disappointing first season in Cincinnati in 2005, when he was 8-15 with a 6.47 ERA and 40 home runs allowed. "I'm hoping he can put together a year where he's 100 percent," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "I don't know how many games he's really been able to pitch here the last couple of years when he was 100 percent. If he can do that, he'll have a good year here for us." Milton is entering the final season of a three-year, $25.5 million contract. Unlike two years ago, the 31-year-old doesn't have the burden of trying to lead the rotation now that Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo are coming off solid years and signed to long-term deals. Likely to be the No. 3 or No. 4 starter on this year's staff, Milton didn't think it made a difference where he fit into the rotation. "I try and do my job no matter what," he said. "I try not to think about the pressure or distractions. I always try to do that no matter where I've pitched or where they tell me to pitch. Just give me the ball. I'm happy to do go out and do anything I can to try and win the game." Weathers report: Reds reliever David Weathers arrived to the clubhouse and located his locker like many other Saturday arrivals. That wasn't a sure thing a few months ago. Weathers, an offseason free agent, could have bolted to another club, and he even contemplated hanging it up for good. The veteran ultimately signed a two-year, $5 million contract in December to remain with the Reds. "I was close to retiring," the 37-year-old Weathers admitted. "I didn't know if I wanted to keep doing all the travel away from home."
With free-agent relievers in high demand, the right-hander had more than a few options to consider, but the Tennessee resident decided that he wanted to remain with Cincinnati."We weighed in heavily on San Francisco. They gave us a lot to think about," Weathers said. "But at the end of the day, you look at your family and you're looking at them getting on a flight for five hours, it's just not worth it." Weathers, who had a 3.54 ERA and 12 saves in 67 games in '06, will be in the mix for the closer's role and can also set up. Staying put: Reds catcher David Ross can afford to get comfortable at his first full Reds camp. That's a contrast to his past two springs when he was traded in the middle of a camp. Two years ago, he was dealt from the Dodgers to the Pirates. Last March, he came to the Reds from the Padres. "It's nice to feel like you're going to stay down here," Ross said. "The last two Spring Trainings, I've left in middle of spring. This time, I'll be around and stay and hopefully they won't ship me out of here." That's highly unlikely. On Jan. 15, Ross was signed to a two-year, $4.54 million contract with a $3.5 million club option for 2009. For the first time in his career, Ross has job security and heads into the season as Cincinnati's primary catcher. Ross is also savoring another first -- he became a father on Feb. 4, when his wife, Hyla, gave birth to a baby girl. Landri Brook Ross wasn't due until Feb. 23, but she arrived healthy. The baby's early arrival gave Ross a chance to have some quality family time before going to camp. The rest of the family will rejoin him in a few days. "I snuck down here, and I'll get a couple nights of sleep," Ross said. "It's the best experience I've had in my life. You don't know that you can love something that much." Ross isn't the only new dad in the clubhouse. During the offseason, Kyle Lohse's wife delivered a new baby son named Kameron, and Harang's wife had a daughter named Addison. Coming up: Following morning physicals, pitchers and catchers will hold their first workout on the field on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Every pitcher and catcher is expected to be present and accounted for.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.