Sunday, July 18, 2004

LHP Claussen seems to be ripe for callup

He's excelling at Triple-A, but club isn't indicating move is imminent

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Triple-A Louisville's Brandon Claussen and Cincinnati's Jesus Sanchez are pitching on the same schedule.

So why not let Claussen make Sanchez's next start?

The fans want it, and there is sentiment within the Reds organization to bring up Claussen immediately.

But on such decisions, only one vote counts: general manager Dan O'Brien's.

And what does O'Brien think? Will we see Claussen soon?

"I would say it's a possibility," O'Brien said. "At least at Louisville, he appears to be the most advanced of the starters there."

Acquired in a trade with the New York Yankees, pitcher Brandon Claussen is a bright left-handed hope for the Cincinnati Reds.
(Michael E. Keating/file photo)
How about Tuesday, when Sanchez is supposed to start against the Milwaukee Brewers?

"I would have to defer to Dave Miley and Don Gullett on that, because ultimately they're the ones who decided the rotation," O'Brien said. "They have not approached us about a change at this point."

The Reds' manager and pitching coach don't usually make that call, because Sanchez is on the roster and Claussen isn't.

Miley deferred comment.

It makes all the sense in the world to bring up Claussen. The fans are clamoring for him, and the 25-year-old left-hander is clearly part of the Reds' future.

Sanchez, a 29-year-old journeyman who signed as a minor-league free agent, is as likely to be with Rochester next year as he is to be with the Reds.

The clinchers: Claussen is pitching better at Louisville than Sanchez did over any stretch this year, and Sanchez has pitched well in only one of his three starts and is 0-2 with a 7.53 ERA.

Claussen, the top prospect the Reds got in the trades they made at the end of last season, started slowly this year. He was 3-4 with a 6.19 ERA June 9. Since then, he is 5-2 with a 2.56 ERA. In 45 2/3 innings, he has allowed 36 hits, struck out 52 and walked 19.

Claussen's command is catching up with his stuff.

"He has a plus-changeup and a plus-breaking ball," Reds player development director Tim Naehring said. "He just needed more consistency. He's been at the top of the league in strikeouts. But he's also been at the top as far as walks. That shows he could not consistently command his pitches."

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TRADE WINDS: The trade deadline - the non-waiver trade deadline, that is - is 13 days away.

It remains to be seen whether the Reds will be buyers or sellers.

Right now, they are stand-patters.

There was a rumor floating around that the San Diego Padres were interested in pitcher Cory Lidle.

O'Brien said there's nothing to it.

"Not insofar as Cory," O'Brien said, "but I'm talking about our entire team in general, the inquiries we've fielded. We've indicated to the clubs that we feel like we have a legitimate chance (for the playoffs). At the moment, we aren't inclined to talk about our athletes."

Many teams have the same attitude.

"We count, at the moment, 21 teams who can realistically say that they are in the wild-card race in their respective league," O'Brien said.

The Reds aren't exactly a prospect-rich club. O'Brien said everyone - Claussen, Edwin Encarnacion, William Bergolla - is available.

"There are some people that we're predisposed to not trade," O'Brien said. "I'm not sure there's anyone we would categorize as untouchable."

GRULER UPDATE: Chris Gruler will make one more start for the Gulf Coast Reds, then move up to rookie-level Billings.

Gruler, the Reds' No. 1 draft pick in 2002, is coming back from arthroscopic shoulder surgery April 29, 2003.

He has been successful in the GCL - 2-1 with a 2.18 ERA in five games. What's troubling is Gruler has struck out only six and walked 12 in 20 2/3 innings.

"He made a statement the other day that his command of his changeup is better than ever," Naehring said. "We'd like to see him build up arm strength. But he's ready to move up a level."

The Reds want to see Gruler's velocity get back in the 90s; he's throwing only in the mid-80s.



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