When I was a free agent this winter, I didn't think too much about staying in the National League. Instead, my focus was to get back to where I was as a pitcher a few years ago.
For three years in a row, I was threw more than 200 innings. The last couple of years have not gone so well. In 2009, I was on pace for 200-plus innings, and then I had an emergency appendectomy. Last year, issues with my back ended up costing me two months. I think I could have gotten to the 200-inning mark, but those things happen. My focus is on staying healthy this year. If I do that, and I reach 200 innings again, that will tell me I am doing something right.
When I am not pitching, I will root these guys on. I think I can help some of the young guys when they need advice. Maybe I can take some of them under my wing. I've been through a lot, and I can share a tip here or a pointer there that they can benefit from. Hopefully, something I say or do will help them further their careers and their success.
It was definitely weird at first when I came to the Padres. I had some jitters, but the guys here have been awesome and they accepted me right away. I am excited to come out and play hard with my new teammates. One thing that has helped me with the transition is that this team feels like it can win. I am fortunate that I came from a team that had a lot of success last year to a team that expects to do the same this year.
I am coming here with guys like Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson who have won before, and it seems like each of us is blending well with a good group of core guys. Those core guys are the type of players you want to build a winning team around. It brings to mind the saying, "Veteran guys bring the knowledge, and the young guys bring the fire." Hopefully, the combination here gets me going again and helps the team.
Another big change for me will be the stadium that I now call home. PETCO Park is known as a pitcher-friendly stadium, and the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati is not. I try not to think about it. You still have to go out there and limit mistakes, because mistakes get hit out of the yard regardless of where you are playing. But there is more of a margin for error pitching in PETCO. My plan is to go out there with the same mentality -- be aggressive and try to help us win.
Of course, I will never forget my seven seasons with the Reds. I really enjoyed my time there. Early there was a lot of change going on. We had teams that just didn't play well. But from those teams, I met a lot of great guys who were great teammates.
We also had some good times. In 2006, we came close. Last year, of course, was great for the organization. It had been a long time since Cincinnati made the playoffs, and it was great to be a part of the team that did that. As a rookie with Oakland, I got to celebrate the postseason and then going to the Reds, it was a long wait to do it again.
Now being some 2,000 miles away, I still hope the Reds do well. I followed them some during Spring Training, but I have to focus on me now. I have to focus on what I need to do and what we need to do. There is a good vibe in our clubhouse; we have a lot of good young arms here and, hopefully, I can do my part.
A two-time 16-game winner with the Reds, veteran right-hander Aaron Harang is set to start his first season with the Padres after inking a one-year deal during the winter. Harang, who is from San Diego and went to San Diego State University, is looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2010 campaign that saw him go 6-7 with a 5.32 ERA for the 2010 NL Central champions.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.