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03/10/07 10:44 AM ET
Notes: Salmon could earn bullpen spot
Hard-throwing right-hander was a 21st round draft pick in 1999
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Reliever Brad Salmon has no problem being tagged as a late bloomer.
"It was a long learning process for me," Salmon said. "Things are starting to fall into place now."
The 27-year-old Salmon, a 21st round draft pick in 1999, has pitched himself into a good position for a bullpen role on the Reds staff. He has yet to allow an earned run through four innings over four games, although he has surrendered two unearned runs and three hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
On Friday, Salmon worked a perfect inning of relief. While setup man Gary Majewski has yet to throw in a game because of a problematic shoulder, a late-inning spot seems up for grabs.
Salmon is a hard-throwing right-hander with a fastball in the low-to-mid 90-mph range. Manager Jerry Narron has said previously that having Salmon could give Cincinnati a different look from the bullpen because the only other right-handed reliever on the staff that throws consistently hard is Todd Coffey.
"It doesn't hurt to throw hard," said Salmon, who was added to the 40-man roster in October. "If you can throw hard and control it, it helps you."
There are several other relievers in camp that pose competition, including lefty Brian Shackelford and non-roster invitees Dustin Hermanson, Brian Meadows and Kerry Ligtenberg.
After he began his career as a starting pitcher and spent four seasons without moving above the low Class A level, Salmon was switched to a reliever in 2003.
By 2006, Salmon went 7-2 with a 2.44 ERA and five saves in 55 appearances combined at Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville. A sign of his ability to overpower hitters were his 96 strikeouts, compared to 43 walks.
"I thought I wouldn't like it at first," Salmon said of relieving. "With my mentality, I go after them with everything I've got. I'm a max effort-type guy. I'm not a finesse dude. I get a good adrenaline rush and just go at them. I think it's been a better fit. They were right in making me a reliever. You have a bad outing and you can go out the next night instead of waiting four days."
Salmon also credits picking up the split-fingered fastball in 2005 for helping him advance through the ranks. On the advice of Chattanooga manager Jayhawk Owens, Salmon began tinkering with the pitch and later honed it in the Puerto Rican winter league two winters ago.
"It just seemed to click," Salmon said. "I got a lot of confidence with it and it seemed to carry over into last year. I faced a lot of big-league hitters over there and I kind of wanted to see how my stuff was against guys like that. It was good competition."
Reds pitcher Kyle Lohse will make his next start on Monday in a simulated game. Lohse is trying to return from a strained right hamstring suffered during his March 2 outing vs. the Twins.
The right-hander expected to throw around 75 pitches in the session. He threw 60 pitches in a simulated game on Wednesday.
"We're not taking any chances with it," Lohse said on Saturday morning. "We just want to be cautious."
During the simulated games, Lohse doesn't have to put any extra stress on his legs, such as running to cover first base on a ground ball.
"We're just worried about arm strength right now," Lohse said. "The legs will come later."
Reds shortstop great Davey Concepcion arrived on Friday to be a guest instructor at the big-league camp. Concepcion is expected to spend 10 days helping the infielders and with base running.
Former Reds infielder Doug Flynn is also in camp working as a guest instructor.
Eric Milton will be making his third start for the Reds this spring when they host the Pirates 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday at Sarasota's Ed Smith Stadium. Lefty Tom Gorzelanny is scheduled to start for Pittsburgh.