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What's in a number? For Aaron Harang, quite a bit

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Aaron Harang switched numbers from 44 to 41 this season for the Dodgers, thanks to an old friendship with Reds legend Joe Nuxhall in Cincinnati.

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Aaron Harang gets the start for the Dodgers on Wednesday in Surprise against the Royals. He was one of a few Dodgers to change his uniform number this season, switching from 44 to 41. Since it was highly unlikely that non-roster invitee Dallas McPherson (who has been released by the Dodgers) forced the change, I decided to ask Harang the reason for the number switch. What was found was a personal relationship dating back to his days in Cincinnati.

Joe Nuxhall was the youngest pitcher ever to appear in a major league game, at just 15 when he pitched one game for the Reds in 1944. Nuxhall found his way back to the Reds at age 23, and won 135 games in a 16-year career, all but about a year and a half in Cincinnati.

Nuxhall moved to the broadcast booth in 1967 and called Reds games for 38 years, including Harang's first two seasons in Cincinnati, in 2003-2004. The two struck up a friendship that lasted until Nuxhall's death in 2007. Harang has donated to Nuxhall's charity foundation, the Miracle Fields in and around Cincinnati, and still keeps in touch with his son to this day.

"He was just a special guy in general," Harang said. "Everybody who came in contact with him thought the world of him."

In 2008, Harang won the Joe Nuxhall Good Guy Award from the Cincinnati chapter of the BBWAA, an award that has special to him.

"It was just cool that I can have something to tie to such a special person," Harang said. "He meant so much to Cincinnati in general, but baseball as well. It's an honor to be tied to someone like that."

Harang wore number 39 during his time in Cincinnati, the same number Nuxhall wore in 1944 and from 1952-1960.

"At the time I didn't think anything of it when I got the number and then I remember him telling me it was his number when he first came up," Harang said. "Then I found out later on that he had 41 as well."

When Harang moved to the Padres he picked number 41, the number Nuxhall wore from 1962-1966. When he came to the Dodgers in 2012, number 39 was not an option since it was retired for Roy Campanella. Harang tried to bribe Rubby De La Rosa to switch from number 41, but De La Rosa wouldn't budge. Harang settled for number 44.

But with De La Rosa now with the Red Sox after last August's nine-player blockbuster trade, Harang seized the opportunity to honor his friend.

Notes

  • With Dee Gordon still nursing a left ankle sprain and an early bus to Tucson on Thursday morning, he has been scratched from making the trip. Juan Uribe will take Gordon's place on the roster for Tucson's game against the Cubs to benefit the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation.
  • Chad Billingsley threw a bullpen session, sans curve balls, without any pain on Wednesday, and remains in line to start on Saturday. Both Billingsley and Hyun-jin Ryu will start on Saturday, one against the White Sox and one on the back fields at Camelback Ranch.
  • Scheduled to follow Harang on the mound on Wednesday in Surprise are Ronald Belisario, Matt Guerrier, Kenley Jansen, and Kevin Gregg. All four relievers will pitch back-to-back on Thursday in a simulated game against Carl Crawford and Tim Federowicz at Camelback Ranch.
  • Suited up for the Dodgers from the minor league side on Wednesday are pitchers Yimi Garcia and Eric Eadington; catcher Wilkin Castillo, infielders Omar Luna, Miguel Rojas, O`Koyea Dickson, and C.J. Retherford; and outfielders Nick Buss and Brian Cavazos-Galvez.
  • Wade Davis starts for the Royals, and will be followed by J.C. Gutierrez, Tim Collins, Donnie Joseph, and Louis Coleman.

Game info

Time: 1:05 p.m. PT

TV: none

Radio: MLB.com (Royals broadcast)

MLB Gameday