The Brewers capped a Winter Meetings week that was all about pitching by selecting one in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft.
Milwaukee picked 23-year-old left-hander Chuck Lofgren from the Indians in the Major League portion of the Draft and will give him a chance next spring to win a job in the bullpen. The claim cost the Brewers $50,000, and by rule they must keep Lofgren in the Majors next season or offer him back to Cleveland for half that price.
“I’m very excited,” Lofgren said. “It’s one of those opportunities that presents itself very rarely. Very few players get taken and I’m excited I was. I’m looking forward to being a part of the Milwaukee Brewer family.
“If they want me to start, I’ll start. If they want me to spot start and relieve, or go lefty on lefty, I’m good with whatever they want.”
If he makes the cut, Lofgren would probably serve as a compliment to left-handed specialist Mitch Stetter. Lofgren was a starter for the Indians who spent most of last season at Triple-A Columbus, going 6-10 with a 5.31 ERA in 17 starts. Lofgren also made eight starts for Double-A Akron and was 3-1 there with a 1.48 ERA.
Overall in 2009, Lofgren held opposing batters to a .223 average and struck out 93. Brewers head pro scout Dick Groch said Lofgren had above-average pitchability but average pure stuff.
“What we’ve got is a pitcher who can do two things: He’s capable of starting, because that was his role, but he’s also capable of coming out of the bullpen because left-handed hitters were hitting in the low .200s against him,” Groch said. “We saw a chance to get a 23-year-old left-hander who can get the ball over the plate. … We like the age, we like the body and we like the things we can do with him.”
Lofgren was the Indians’ fourth-round pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft and jumped up the prospect chart after going 17-5 with a 2.32 ERA as a 20-year-old at advanced Class A Kinston in 2006, and he followed-up by going 12-7 with a 4.37 ERA at Double-A Akron in 2007.
But he struggled at Akron the following season to the tune of a 5.99 ERA and 52 walks versus 72 strikeouts.
“I feel like coming back this year after the year that I had [in 2008], I did pretty well,” Lofgren said. “My August was down, but I thought I put myself back on the map with how I’ve performed.<p>
Lofgren was available because the Indians chose not to protect him on their 40-man roster.
“Chuck has the pedigree, and he’s had a lot of highs and done some very good things,” Indians farm director Ross Atkins said. “He’s extremely durable, extremely competitive. But at this point, we feel we have better options to win at the Major League level.”
The Brewers did not select any players in the Minor League phases of the Rule 5 Draft. They also did not have any unprotected players selected by other teams.
The Brewers haven’t carried a Rule 5 pick into the season since right-hander Jeff Bennett made the team in 2004.