Thursday, April 20, 2006

Wagner's issues mental not mechanical

Ryan Wagner, a former No. 1 draft choice by the Reds, began the season at Triple-A Louisville and not in Cincinnati. The reasons why only partly have to do with pitching.

Wagner, who was among the Reds’ final cuts out of spring training, allowed two earned runs in his first five appearances with the Bats. He struck out eight and walked three.

The 23-year old right-hander didn’t have a bad spring. In fact, he was 2-1 with a 2.77 ERA and allowed only four earned runs in 13 innings pitched.

Wagner wasn’t too pleased about being shipped to the minors. But, it was a move many in the Reds organization felt was necessary for his development - physically and mentally.

Former Reds manager Dave Miley didn’t appreciate it when the young Wagner would look toward the dugout for guidance at the first sign of trouble.

"If you ever look in here again, I'm coming out to get you," Miley would say.

Current Reds skipper Jerry Narron has expressed his displeasure with Wagner’s over-reliance on his slider.

When Wagner would throw one slider, a batter could lay odds that another one was on the way.

Although he retired 18 of the first 19 big-league batters he faced in his career, it soon became clear that Wagner’s rise to the major leagues was a bit too meteoric.

After being the Reds’ top pick in the 2003 draft, Wagner made only nine appearances in the minors before joining the big-league club.

Former GM Jim Bowden’s decision to rush Wagner to the major leagues paid dividends early. But, time might have caught up with the youngster.

The Reds bullpen needs help. As a result, Wagner’s progress will be closely watched.

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