Notes: Ligtenberg tries to make the cut
After pondering retirement, reliever gets another shot
SARASOTA, Fla. -- When Kerry Ligtenberg's phone wasn't exactly ringing off the hook this winter, the unemployed reliever had already looked ahead to his baseball afterlife and knew he had options."I was close to being done, actually," said Ligtenberg, who is in Reds camp as a non-roster player trying to make the team. Ligtenberg, a Minneapolis area native, already has a chemical engineering degree from the University of Minnesota. He began laying the groundwork toward adding a finance degree and plans to take courses over the Internet. A life of leisure also sounded appealing. "I told my wife I'd like to spend the summer fishing, but she wasn't real keen on that," Ligtenberg said. Ultimately, Ligtenberg wasn't keen about any of those post-baseball options either, at least not yet. The 35-year-old right-hander still wanted to pitch in the Major Leagues. He spent most of the offseason working out with a personal trainer and keeping his arm in shape. "I told my agent I wanted to pitch somewhere," Ligtenberg said. "It was just a matter of finding the right situation. He started making calls." At first, the only offer came from a Japanese team. But Ligtenberg's wife delivered their third child in November and he wasn't interested in moving his young family to the Far East. "It was the beginning of February and I didn't have a job," Ligtenberg said. "I gave my agent a deadline and said, 'Look, if I don't sign by this day, I'm done throwing.'" On Feb. 3, Ligtenberg participated in the annual University of Minnesota pro-alumni game at the Metrodome and threw a scoreless inning against the current Golden Gophers team. Twins general manager Terry Ryan was in attendance, as were a handful of scouts. The Twins didn't have any spots for Ligtenberg, but he was offered encouragement. "[Ryan] said I could still pitch," Ligtenberg said. "I know he's pretty straightforward. If he said I stunk, it would have been time to shut it down." Always looking for bullpen help, the Reds were interested. Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky, a former Twins assistant GM, phoned Ryan and got a positive endorsement. Cincinnati signed Ligtenberg to a Minor League deal on Feb. 14, just three days before Spring Training opened. "It's nice to have him here. He's a veteran guy," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "He pitched extremely well in bullpens in the past. It'll be interesting to see how he does." Formerly the Braves closer, Ligtenberg had a career-high 30 saves and a 2.71 ERA in 75 games in 1998 but missed 1999 after he had Tommy John surgery on his elbow. After that, he bounced around to Baltimore, Toronto and Arizona. Hip and knee problems had bothered him since 2004, a result of too much strength training with his legs and running. He has since changed his workout routines.
Ligtenberg spent 2006 with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs and had 18 saves and 3.57 ERA in 53 games. With the Reds closer's job open until Eddie Guardado returns from an elbow injury, Ligtenberg could have a chance to fill it if he throws well this spring."When you've done it before, you always want to do it," Ligtenberg said. "I think I would have more than a nominal chance as a guy to do it. But first, I just need to make the team. My goal is that I want to pitch well enough where they have to think about giving me a chance to make this team. Then I'll go from there." Probable pitchers: Narron revealed his starting pitcher rotation for the first stretch of exhibition games on Sunday. Eric Milton will start the Grapefruit League opener Thursday against the Pirates at Bradenton. Kyle Lohse will face his former team -- the Twins -- on Friday in Fort Myers. Aaron Harang will pitch against Minnesota on Saturday and Bronson Arroyo will face Pittsburgh next Sunday. Under the current schedule, it lines up that Harang would be Cincinnati's Opening Day starter vs. the Cubs on April 2. Narron did not reveal his pitching plans for Wednesday's 12 p.m. ET intrasquad game. Majewski update: Reliever Gary Majewski took Sunday off after he long tossed from up to 75 feet on Saturday. Majewski, who is trying to return from a sore right shoulder, planned to throw again from flat ground on Monday. "It's coming along good," Majewski said on Sunday. He did not know when he'd begin to work off a mound. Salmon impresses: Narron said he was pleased with all of his pitchers' performance through four days of live batting practice. But hard-throwing reliever Brad Salmon seemed to have made an impression. "Brad Salmon has a good arm and shown us that he might give us a little bit of a different look out of the bullpen," Narron said. "A lot of our guys in the bullpen throw the same type of stuff." Salmon, in the Reds organization since 1999, split last season between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville. With Louisville, the right-hander was 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA in 39 games with 27 walks and 72 strikeouts.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.