Reds searching for better back end
Arroyo, Harang solid, but rest of rotation filled with uncertainty
SARASOTA, Fla. -- During the mid-20th century, the Braves' rotation was famously labeled "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain."One writer once joked that the early 21st century Red Sox had "Pedro and Lowe and pray for snow." Like those two staffs, the Reds are fortunate to have strength at the top two spots of their rotation in Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. Both men were among the National League's top pitchers last season and easily surpassed the 200-inning benchmark. Who comes after that? For now, plenty of question marks. Since there aren't any good weather rhymes that click with "Harang and Arroyo," the Reds would gladly take dependability instead from their other three starters. "That's three-fifths [of the rotation]," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "So that's important." "That's where it all starts, your starting pitching and going out and giving your team a chance to win," Reds starter Kyle Lohse said. "If you get good years out of each one, you'll obviously do some damage and win ballgames." Lohse and Eric Milton are already locked in to follow Harang and Arroyo. But both pitchers, each a year away from free agency, are far from sure things. They are trying to resuscitate their resumes after some bleak recent seasons. Signed to a three-year, $25.5 million contract before 2005 to be Cincinnati's No. 1 starter, Milton hasn't come remotely close to having No. 1 starter's results. Two years ago, the lefty struggled with an 8-15 record, a 6.47 ERA and an NL- high 40 homers allowed. The results were somewhat beter last season, when he turned in an 8-8 record and 5.19 ERA. Milton, 31, had glimmers of positive moments in 2006 but wasn't able to sustain them over the long haul. Following two quality outings in three starts to begin the season, he had surgery on his left knee to repair cartilage damage -- the third procedure on that knee since 2002. In September, a sore elbow required season-ending arthroscopic surgery. Declaring that he's healthy again, Milton has another shot at turning it around. He threw 201 innings with the Phillies in 2004 and had three straight 200-plus inning seasons with the Twins from 1999-2001.
An up-close look at the club as we approach Opening Day
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.