Indians Deal Away Slugger Branyan - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Indians Deal Away Slugger Branyan

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Russell Branyan, a major disappointment in his first season as an everyday player, was traded Friday by the Cleveland Indians to the Cincinnati Reds for minor league first baseman Ben Broussard.

Branyan, 26, had received more playing time this season as the Indians hoped he would become a power hitting presence in their lineup.

However, he was batting just .205 with eight homers and 17 RBIs in 50 games and had struck out 65 times this season. Last season, the left-handed utilityman struck out 132 times in only 315 at-bats.

The 25-year-old Broussard was with the Reds' Triple-A Louisville affiliate this season. He was batting .273 with 11 homers and 30 RBIs in 57 games.

"We are excited to add an upper-level position player to the organization," Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said. "We feel he has the potential to become a major league quality corner bat in the near future."

Broussard was the Southern League batting champion last year at Double-A Chattanooga. He hit .320 with 23 homers and 69 RBIs in 100 games.

Broussard, a left-handed hitter, was taken by the Reds in the second round of the June 1999 draft out of McNeese State. The Indians optioned Broussard to Triple-A Buffalo and, to replace Branyan on the roster, purchased the contract of outfielder Chad Allen from Buffalo.

Allen, who signed as a minor league free agent in May, was batting .359 (23-for-64) with the Bisons. He had right knee surgery in 2001 and saw limited time with the Minnesota Twins.

Branyan had become a recent target for booing fans at Jacobs Field as his strikeouts piled up. Indians hitting instructor Eddie Murray had worked with Branyan since spring training on shortening his swing and being more selective at the plate.

But Branyan was still missing pitches far too often for the Indians, whose offense has struggled this season and has sorely needed another big bat.

Cleveland didn't want to risk trading away Branyan after watching former Indians Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Giles and Richie Sexson, who are all flourishing with new teams.

Branyan's continuing inability to deliver clutch hits frustrated Indians manager Charlie Manuel, who did his best to stick with Branyan. But Manuel benched Branyan for the last four games.

Branyan was batting just .143 (5-for-35) with runners in scoring position and was 0-for-8 with the bases loaded.

Branyan appeared in 113 games last season for Cleveland, which moved him from third base to the outfield to get him more playing time.

Branyan was selected in the seventh round of the 1994 draft by the Indians, who felt he would one day follow Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome as a dependable power hitter.

He hit 40 home runs in 1996 in the South Atlantic League and steadily worked his way up through the organization before playing in 67 games with the Indians in 2000.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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