Dusty Baker settles on rotation for Reds

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Reds will go with three right-handers in their playoff rotation regardless of the opponent.

Manager Dusty Baker announced on Sunday that he will start Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto in the first three games. The NL Central champions will open on the road against either the Phillies or the NL West champion.

Baker decided against letting left-hander Travis Wood start because he's a rookie. Wood took a perfect game into the ninth inning of a 1-0, 11-inning loss in Philadelphia in July, but Baker is wary of putting a young pitcher under playoff pressure.

Wood and right-hander Homer Bailey will be available out of the bullpen and could move into the rotation later in the playoffs.

"Get him in a game [in relief], he'll be prepared to start the next time if there is a next time," Baker said. "It's a different atmosphere. It's a different noise level. It's a different intensity. It's a different everything. This will be more electricity and intensity and cheering and jeering and spitting than anything they've experienced in their lives."

Arroyo is the only one of the three with playoff experience. He pitched in relief for Boston in the 2003 league championship series against the Yankees and made one start and two relief appearances against New York in the '04 championship series.

Arroyo made it to the World Series with the Red Sox in 2004, pitching in relief twice. He said Sunday it didn't matter to him whether he started the first playoff game or the second.

Baker likes having Arroyo between the other two hard throwers in the rotation.

"He's softer," Baker said before the final regular-season game against Milwaukee. "You don't want to put two similar guys back to back."

Baker is likely to go with 11 pitchers. The Reds will wait until the day of the first game to decide the entire roster because they want to see whether Laynce Nix and Jim Edmonds are healthy enough to play off the bench.

Edmonds hurt his lower right leg while rounding the bases on a home run Sept. 22 in Milwaukee. The 40-year-old outfielder initially thought he'd torn his Achilles tendon, but tests found no such injury. Nix has been bothered all month by a sprained left ankle.

"Nix looks a little healthier than Edmonds right now," Baker said.

Another Reds right-hander, Aaron Harang, who lost his spot in the rotation in September, was forced Sunday from what likely will be his final start for Cincinnati with a blister on his pitching hand.

Harang gave up a two-run double to Milwaukee's Corey Hart with none out in the second inning Sunday. A trainer came out to look at a blister on his right middle finger, and Harang left the game.

The 32-year-old pitcher got to make one more start so Volquez could rest for the playoffs. Harang has an option for next season at $12.75 million, which the Reds likely will buy out for $2 million, making him a free agent.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.