Good Luck Chuck: Brewer's Lofgren Looking To Break In

Nino Colla@TheTribeDailySenior Writer IDecember 22, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - JULY 08:  USA Team All-Star Chuck Lofgren of the Cleveland Indians pitches during the XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game at AT&T Park on July 8, 2007 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Major League Baseball's Rule V Draft can be seen as both an opportunity for some players and a total pain in the ass for some teams.

For Chuck Lofgren, it is most definitely an opportunity.

And for his possibly former team in Cleveland, it is definitely an annual pain in the rear-end.

Organizations like Cleveland always have players worth protecting and usually more than they have spots for on the 40-man roster.

Such was the case this year and the result was the selection of Chuck Lofgren by the Milwaukee Brewers.

The thing is, though, even if they had a few more spots, Lofgren probably wouldn't have been protected due to the current situation.

However, he was probably the Indian most likely to get selected that wasn't a no-brainer addition to the Indians' 40-man roster. He meets the criteria that teams usually select players in the Rule V Draft by.

In this year's draft, all but three players in the major league phase were pitchers. The three position players were selected by National League teams (Pittsburgh, Washington, and Houston) who have room and opportunities for such players.

Of those fifteen pitchers selected, five of them actually started a majority of their games last season. The rest were either full-time relievers, made a few starts, but made a vast majority of their appearances from the pen, or barely pitched at all.

Lofgren, Hector Ambriz, Steve Johnson, Edgar Osuna and Ben Jukich were the five that fit that mold. Lofgren and Ambriz are being moved into relief roles with their new teams and Jukich pitched half his games out of the pen last year.

Ambriz, who was selected by Cleveland, has never really pitched out of the bullpen, but Cleveland believes his two pitches will translate better in a relief role. Lofgren had a stint as a relief pitcher, but it was more of a matter that was related to performance than anything.

The reality is that a lot of these pitchers selected are going to fill in bullpen roles whether they were starters or not. Some, such as new Cubs pitcher Mike Parisi, were selected based on the need for starting depth.

But, the idea is to stick the players you select in Rule V into the bullpen and sort of hope they latch on in some way.

If you've really done your homework and, in some cases, get lucky, as was the case with Minnesota with Johan Santana, then eventually you may have a starter on your hands.

Another reason Lofgren's chances of being selected were high could be pinned on the fact that he was a left-handed pitcher.

Six of the pitchers, including Lofgren, were left-handed. That isn't majority, but the "LOOGY" type relief pitcher is always coveted. Even though Milwaukee has Mitch Stetter in the pen, you can never have too many good matchup options.

So Lofgren is now a Brewer, for now at least.

The rules and guidelines for the Rule V Draft are difficult to understand for some and little details often go overlooked. But just know this: In order for Milwaukee to retain the services of Lofgren past this season, he has to remain on the active roster until the end of the season.

Injury guidelines aside, Lofgren must win a roster spot coming out of spring training and stick with the club all year for him to become an official member of the Brewers, unless, of course, Milwaukee and Cleveland strike a deal for him to stay.

If not, Lofgren will return to Columbus before the season starts and the Indians will return half of the $50,000 payout they received when Lofgren was picked.

With the aforementioned Stetter in the bullpen already and Milwaukee making a strong effort to bring in starters for their rotation, Lofgren's chances are dwindling.

I wouldn't bother telling Lofgren though. You would be talking to a brick wall.
Chuck is made up of determination and fight. I'd expect him to stick in and battle for that shot at the major leagues until the very end. It's something he's waited for and battled to achieve for a long time now.

And it hasn't come without obstacles.

A few years ago, Chuck Lofgren was a highly rated prospect within the Indians organization, ready to take on the Double-A level. He won 12 games with the Aeros in 2007, but started 2008 back in Akron.

Still young at 22, Lofgren was on a good schedule for the major leagues, so starting 2008 in Akron made sense. If all went right, he'd be up to Buffalo in no time and once that happened, it wouldn't be long before he reached the majors.

Then the mystery of Chuck Lofgren's spectacular unraveling occurred.

Fans and followers of the Aeros, Lofgren, and the Indians' minor league system were all in a state of curiosity as Lofgren's numbers faltered and soon after that he was down in extended spring training to "work on things."

When Lofgren returned to Akron it was in that relief role mentioned earlier. More curiosity surrounded him now as if he had totally lost it and the thought of even moving him to the other side of baseball came up.

Part of his legend is that he's a good hitter. Rick Ankiel comparisons began to sprout up because the pitching wasn't there.

It was only one year though and, as we would find out in the offseason, something outside of baseball was having an impact on his performance on the mound.

The world would come to find out that Lofgren's body was on the mound pitching for Akron but his mind was clearly not. His mind was too occupied thinking about his mother, who was in the fight of her life against cancer.

Chuck owned up to his performance in 2008 and didn't blame what was going on for it entirely. However, he did admit that the situation "played with his mind a bit." He is human though and you would be kidding yourself if you didn't think Lofgren had his mother on his mind.

Things started to improve for his mother around the time Cleveland decided to put Lofgren into the bullpen. With all of that, Lofgren's performance started to improve and it would set the tone for what would be a bounce back year in 2009.

Lofgren returned to the rotation and with Akron he put up a stellar 1.48 ERA in eight starts for the Aeros. It was a year later than most expected, but Lofgren finished his business in Akron and had made it to Triple-A.

With the Clippers he had his struggles, specifically against Toledo, but for the most part, Lofgren showed his talent and dominance against left-handed hitting.

Now with the Brewers, he'll have a chance to expand upon that success. Milwaukee plans to have Lofgren as a left-handed matchup specialist and occasional long-man if he makes their roster.

If you asked Chuck, I doubt he would care in what role they want him to take on. For Chuck, he is probably just grateful for the opportunity to pitch at the game's highest level.

And for someone that could have hit rock-bottom career wise a few years ago, that's pretty special.


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