Tim Redding has allowed only one walk in 10 innings this spring. (Tony Dejak/AP)
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- No disrespect intended for Chicago Cubs right-hander Greg Maddux, but the best No. 5 starter in baseball this season just might be Houston's Tim Redding.
Surprised? Then you haven't been watching this 26-year-old right-hander lately. He's a budding No. 2 disguised as a No. 5. Arguably Houston's best starter in 2003, when he led the team with a 3.68 ERA and posted a 10-14 record in 32 starts even though his run support was among the weakest in baseball, Redding has been lights out this spring.
Redding was at it again Saturday, blanking Cleveland through four innings on three hits. Once again Redding did not walk a batter, was ahead in the count on almost every hitter and was so effective he needed to pitch on the side after his game stint was over just to make sure he reached his pitch count. For three consecutive starts Redding has breezed through opponents so efficiently he wasn't getting enough work to stretch his arm out.
On Saturday he threw 53 pitches, then went to the side to make sure he reached his allotted 70 pitches. For the spring, Redding has walked only one batter and has yet to allow a run in 10 innings.
"So far this spring, I've been fortunate to have everything working and my arm feels great," Redding said. "It's a lot easier to have confidence in your other pitches and throw them for strikes when you're ahead of guys. Today, I worked on the same thing I've been working on all spring, get ahead of guys and throw all my pitches for strikes whether I'm ahead or behind in the count."
With roughly two weeks of camp remaining, Redding is already certain this is the best camp he has had. And while spring performances can be deceiving, there is no denying the quality of his pitches since camp opened. While Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller have garnered more attention than Redding, no one has outpitched Houston's No. 5 starter this spring.
"I came into this camp more ready and focused than I ever have because not only being named the fifth starter, but just knowing what we've have accomplished this year and what's in front of us is unbelievable, and I want to be a part of something special," Redding said. "If I'm not on my game or I'm unprepared, I'm just going to be another guy in the crowd, and I want to make sure that I stand out as much as everybody else. When it's my day to pitch, I want Tim Redding to be a guy who helps the Astros win that day. I want to go out there, and I want to dominate."
Houston manager Jimy Williams said Redding has continually been in the strike zone this spring.
"He's made good pitches, and he's had a good breaking ball, too," Williams said.
Redding will get three more starts before the regular season begins. Next time, he will go five innings or 80 pitches. With everything working so well, Redding doesn't want to change anything about his pitches and will concentrate on building arm strength for the season.
"I'm not trying to throw a shutout spring, I'm just trying to go out and build on each start," he said. "Who knows, maybe God will shine on me and I'll get a complete game this year. But you've got to have your arm ready to throw about 10,000 pitches this year."
One thing is certain. Redding obviously looks like he will be ready for the season, whether baseball is ready for him or not.