Gruler made the trip a lot more pleasant with his outing Friday night. Gruler, the Reds' No.1 pick and third overall in the draft, made his professional debut at rookie-level Billings. The right-hander pitched four innings of two-hit, shutout ball, walking two and striking out three.
“I was nervous at first,” Gruler said. “As far as performance, it was decent. I wasn't able to hit my spots like I normally do. It had been three or four weeks since I pitched in a game.”
Gruler is on the fast track to the big leagues. His teammates at Billings mostly are college players. Reds director of player development Tim Naehring's plan for Gruler is to have him start five or six times at Billings. If Gruler is successful there, he could be moved to Single-A Dayton.
“Everything I hear is nothing but positive,” Gruler said. “That makes me feel good. It makes me want to work 10 times harder.”
The Billings experience was a new one for Gruler, a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder. His games at Liberty High in Brentwood, Calif., drew 200 people when he was pitching and maybe two dozen if he wasn't. Nearly 5,000 fans attended his Billings debut.
“That's not what made me nervous,” he said. “It was more, "This is my professional debut. I've always dreamed about this. Wow.'”
Gruler had to get up at 5:30 a.m. to make his flight to Cincinnati. He'll spend the night in Cincinnati, then go to Billings and get back to work.
Reds general manager Jim Bowden gave Gruler a jersey Saturday.
“He'll be wearing this in that stadium over there in a few years,” Bowden said, pointing to Great American Ball Park, “if not sooner.”