04/04/11 12:35 PM ET
San Diegan Harang gets nod in home opener
By Corey Brock / MLB.com
But it might have had a little something to do with it.
"I'm excited for Aaron. He's a native San Diegan, went to high school there, played for San Diego State and grew up a longtime Padres fan," Padres manager Bud Black said.
"I think it's going to be a special day for him."
But, to be clear, Black had other intentions when choosing a pitcher to get the start in front of what will be a sold-out crowd.
"You want a guy with the head to handle the emotions and adrenaline of it," Black said.
That job, in Black's estimation, best fell on Harang's broad shoulders. After all, Harang made five Opening Day starts for the Reds and has been around baseball long enough to know how to differentiate pomp and circumstance from business.
"It's an honor to be able to get to do that, to get to start the opener at home. I've seen so many Opening Days from San Diego on TV. Now, just getting the chance to start there is going to be awesome," Harang said.
The Padres, looking to replace Jon Garland in the rotation, signed Harang to a one-year deal in December worth $3.5 million.
The Padres are counting on a bounce-back season pitching in a home ballpark that favors pitchers like Harang's old ballpark -- Great American Ball Park -- favored hitters.
"You had to go in with the mentality that you're probably going to give up a home run," Harang said of pitching in Cincinnati. "You tell yourself that's going to happen. If you make a mistake there, then you better make it with no one on base.
"It was tough, but you had to go out there and be aggressive. You couldn't nibble around, because that's where you make mistakes. You've got to keep the ball down and let the defense play for you."
Black thinks Harang will flourish in his new home.
"It's a good fit for a number of factors," Black said. "Coming back home, I think he's had a very good offseason as far as training. He's been extremely motivated to get back to a level of performance that he was accustomed to for a number of years there in Cincinnati.
"I think with us, there are some ballpark factors and some defense factors that will help his game, and with that comes confidence."
For as excited as Harang is about starting the home opener, he knows that he can't treat it any differently than, say, a start in June or July.
"You have to look at it as any other game," Harang said. "I know that after the first one, you get over the overwhelming part of what's going on [in the home opener] around you and just focus on pitching.
"So I'm going to try and treat it like any other game ... but it's going to be different."
Harang isn't the only Padres player who will be making his home debut on Tuesday, as 17 players on the 25-man roster weren't on the roster a year ago when the Padres began the season and played their home opener a week later.
Catcher Rob Johnson, who has been to PETCO Park as a visiting player while with the Mariners, is looking forward to Tuesday.
"The first thing that comes to mind is it's a new season of my life and now I'm going home to an Opening Day with a new team -- the Padres," he said. "I'm really looking forward to a new beginning."