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savafan
03-31-2006, 10:50 PM
http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060331&content_id=1376167&vkey=spt2006news&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Only one more day left.

Saturday will give Reds players on the roster bubble one more game to impress, a final opportunity to sway decisions and maybe a last chance to catch a break.

Few probably understand the stress the tenuous situation brings more than Jacob Cruz. The outfielder/first baseman has gone north as Cincinnati's 25th man the past two Spring Trainings.

"When you walk into camp and the ballpark, you feel like you're walking the plank," Cruz said. "You don't know if they're going to call you into the office. It's the hardest part of this whole job. You try to stay calm and pray for a good outcome."

It hasn't been a great camp for Cruz, who is batting .158 (6-for-38) in 20 games after going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts Friday. Then again, last year's camp (in which he batted .196 with three homers) wasn't so great either, and he still survived the finals cut. He went on to lead the team with a club-record 20 pinch-hits.

Cruz, 32, admitted he's been pressing at the plate.

"You try to not think about, 'I need to get a hit,'" Cruz said. "It's one of those things. It's just human nature to go up there and say, 'If I get a hit, I'm going to look better.'"

"When you know you're fighting for that last spot on the roster, there's a lot of pressure," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "And it's not an easy situation to be in for guys. It's part of the game. It's what [Cruz] is dealing with. But he's not the only one."

Others still in camp seeking what appears to be the final spot on the 25-man roster are catchers David Ross and Dane Sardinha, infielder Frank Menechino and first baseman Andy Abad. Camp sensation Brian Buchanan, not part of the big league camp, has gotten a serious look this spring.

The final decision could depend on a few other factors, including whether Cincinnati decides to carry two or three catchers, depending on Jason LaRue's recovery from knee surgery and his Opening Day readiness.

"I've talked to Jerry and it sounds like [the decisions] will go to the last hour," Cruz said.

Was Cruz optimistic about his chances?

"You have to be," he said. "In this game, you really have to be."

McCracken makes it? If his sore right foot is ready to answer the bell Monday, outfielder Quinton McCracken appears to have made the club.

The veteran has played in just one of the Reds' past 11 games and was batting .356 (16-for-45) in 17 games this month.

Narron said McCracken's chances of making it haven't been diminished by missing so much time.

"If he's healthy, it'd be very difficult for him not to have a spot," Narron said. "My only concern with McCracken is he's not going to be healthy enough to play without re-injuring it right away. I don't want him to be active for a day and then go on the DL for three weeks. I'd rather him miss a week and play six months."

Because McCracken is a non-roster invitee on a Minor League contract, the Reds aren't required to place him on the DL before leaving camp. However, they would likely have to make a decision on him by April 6, when Triple-A Louisville opens its regular season.

Final start: Brandon Claussen pitched six innings in his final spring tuneup Friday. Claussen allowed three runs and four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He also threw a wild pitch in the first inning that scored Grady Sizemore.

The left-hander faced most of Cleveland's regular-season lineup and said he felt good.

"I wasn't trying to work on anything [today]," said Claussen, who finished camp 3-1 with a 3.81 ERA in six starts, totaling 26 innings. "I want to be ready for the season. I feel like I am."

Winning spring: With one game to go, the Reds have a chance for 22 wins, which will mark the second time they've done that since 1970. In 1992, they went 22-9-1. Narron felt the club accomplished its objectives this spring.

"That has nothing to do with our record down here," Narron said. "I've been very pleased with the attitudes and the work from Day 1 from all of these guys, even if we had been 11-20 instead of 20-11. Our record means absolutely nothing."

Good news for Wilson: Recovering from last June's right shoulder surgery, Paul Wilson made his second simulated start of the spring on Friday. The right-hander threw 72 pitches in 5 2/3 innings without any signs of trouble.

Seen and heard: Before opening the regular season, the Reds have scheduled a 1 p.m. ET workout Sunday at Great American Ball Park. The session is not open to the public.

John Coutlangus, a left-handed pitcher, was claimed off waivers from the Giants and added to the 40-man roster Friday. He was optioned to Double-A Chattanooga. To make room, the Reds placed pitcher Grant Balfour (shoulder/elbow) on the 60-day disabled list.

Left-handed pitcher Tommy Phelps was released on Friday. Phelps, a non-roster player, was cut from camp earlier this month.

Coming up: The Reds and Indians meet again Saturday to end the Grapefruit League season, this time back in Sarasota. Eric Milton will start for Cincinnati against right-hander Paul Byrd at 1:05 p.m. ET.