Heartbreak: A Pitcher Trapped Inside a Catcher's Body

What does a Cubs player do when he realizes that he is a pitcher trapped inside a position player's body? Well, he goes to Fitch Park for a Transpositional Assignment Conversion. 

How does it work?

Well...

Although hormones are usually not required, the former position player does have to throw away his bats and batting gloves, and (in the case of catchers) his shin guards, chest protector, mask-helmet, and industrial-strength protective cup.

The player (er, pitcher)  then has to start running. A lot. And then he has to learn to bitch and moan about having to run. But it's all part of the transition from position player to pitcher.  

And so in the grand tradition of Carlos Marmol, Randy Wells, Blake Parker, Adalberto Mendez, Leonel Perez (and others), still another Cubs minor league position player will be making the conversion to pitcher.

And, no, it's not Ryan Harvey (yet).
 
With the best arm among the catchers in the Cubs system, Jake Muyco consistently throws out 50%+ opposing base-stealers each season. But he also struggles to hit .200 and has no power (although he makes up for it by being a slow runner).

So tomorrow 23-year old Jake Muyco (2005 8th Round draft pick out of NC State) will be arriving at Fitch Park (Extended Spring Training) to begin life as a pitcher.

As part of the move sending Muyco to EXST to become a pitcher, C-1B Steve Clevenger has been promoted from Daytona to Tennessee, C-1B-3B Blake Lalli moves up from Peoria to Daytona, and 2B-LF Elvis Lara (supposedly) will be going from EXST to Peoria. To that end, the Cubs had Lara play 2B today (he was moved from 2B to LF at the start of EXST), presumably because he will be playing some 2B at Peoria.  

2B-OF Jeffrey Rea (rehabbing a sore arm at EXST since the end of Minor League Camp) was supposed to get the promotion to Peoria, but he strained a quad running the bases in a game on Tuesday and so he will apparently be remaining at Fitch Park until he can get that problem resolved. 

Also, 18-year old Korean RHP Dae-Eun Rhee is supposedly in Chicago getting an MRI on his sore arm, after which (depending on the outcome) he could return to Peoria, or (more likely) he could be diverted to Mesa for a rehab stint at EXST. Hopefully he won't need surgery.

As fans of Cubs Extended Spring Training well know, Thursday is Camp Day, which means an early morning work-out followed by an intrasquad game of indeterminable length.

Rehabbing RHP Billy Petrick (shoulder) threw an inning today, and got hit fairly hard. RHP Chris Huseby (at EXST to work on his mechanics) made his first game appearance of EXST, and looked OK (not great, but OK). And RHPs Billy Muldowney and Todd Blackford (both rehabbing from 2007 TJ surgery) threw two innings each, and Blackford was especially sharp today (he couldn't throw strikes last time out). I would think it's quite possible that Blackford could replace Rhee at Peoria if the Cubs wish to maintain a 13-man pitching staff there. 

Today's intrasquad game was kind of weird and complicated, because there weren't enough healthy position players to field two teams (Rea is out with the quad strain, Bryan Jost is down with a groin injury, Gian Guzman is sick with the flu, Brandon Guyer still can't throw, and one or two of the catchers were constantly busy warming-up pitchers in the bullpen for most of the game). I offered to play LF in exchange for a free dinner at the Olive Garden, but they said they don't give away gift cards this time of year.  

So although the pitchers threw for either Squad "A" or Squad "B," the position players rotated back and forth from the field to the bench. There was really only one "team" and no "batting order" as such (or maybe I should say the batting order changed with each inning). For what it's worth, Squad "B" beat Squad "A" 4-3.

So here is a goofy looking abridged box score, but it's the best I can do given the circumstances:

POSITION PLAYERS:
Dwayne Kemp, 2B: 0-1 (2 R, BB, HBP, SB)
Starlin Castro, SS: 1-3 (R, BB, K, GIDP, SB, CS)
Luke Sommer, 1B-LF: 0-3 (R, BB, K)
Nelson Perez, RF: 2-3 (2 RBI, R, SB) 
Luis Bautista, 1B: 0-3 (K)
Drew Rundle, CF: 1-2 (3B, RBI, 2 BB)
John Contreras, 3B-1B: 1-4 (2B, 3 RBI, 2 K)
Elvis Lara, LF-2B: 2-2 (R, HBP, 2 SB)
Jose Made, 2B-SS: 1-3 (CS)
Roberto Sabates, DH: 0-4 (K, GIDP)
Junior Lake, SS-3B: 2-4 (K, CS)
Andres Quezada, CF: 0-3 (K)
Kevin Soto, RF: 0-4 (2 K)
Alvaro Sosa, C: 1-2 (CS)
Carlos Perez, C: 1-2 (R, BB)
Jose Guevara, PH: 0-1

PITCHERS:

SQUAD "A"
1. Chris Huseby - 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 GIDP
2. Billy Muldowney - 2.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K
3. Rogelio Carmona - 2.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HBP
4. Carlos Rojas - 1.0 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP
NOTE: Rojas outing cut-short with three runs scored & no outs in inning 

SQUAD "B"
1. Billy Petrick - 1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 1 K (15 pitches - 3 BB/12 K)
2. Dionis Nunez - 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K
3. Cody Hams - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 GIDP
4. Todd Blackford - 2.0 IP,  0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K

ERRORS:
1. Jose Made fumbled ground ball at SS 
2. D. Nunez overthrew second base on pick-off attempt allowing baserunner to advance to 3rd.
3. Hams threw pick-off attempt over first-baseman's head allowing runner to advance two bases

CATCHERS DEFENSE:
C. Perez: 2-4 CS
Sosa: 2-5 CS

WEATHER: Hot and sunny again (and it will probably stay like that until November)

ATTENDANCE: 2  (me and some other guy)

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Comments

AZ Phil - thanks for the updates, as always most appreciated. Quick question - are the Cubs the leaders in doing these kinds of transitions with their players? I know other clubs have converted position players into pitchers, but it seems like the Cubs have more experience with it than most.

The Humorous side of AZ Dr. Phil? Will he be here all week? Tip your waiters!

Submitted by Dmac on Thu, 04/24/2008 - 2:55pm.

AZ Phil - thanks for the updates, as always most appreciated.

Quick question - are the Cubs the leaders in doing these kinds of transitions with their players? I know other clubs have converted position players into pitchers, but it seems like the Cubs have more experience with it than most

===========================

DMAC: I believe so.

As you said, other teams do it, but the Cubs seem more willing to do it (and do it a lot more often), especially with catchers.

BTW, Rule 5 RHP Tim Lahey (who was in big league camp with Cubs in Spring Training, although he is now back with the Twins) was also a converted catcher.

And Cubs Player Development Director Oneri Fleita was also a catcher in his playing days at Creighton (where his coach was... Jim Hendry!) and later in the Baltimore Orioles system. Maybe he secretly wishes he had become a pitcher.

I like the fact that the club is willing to spend time and money on the chance that prospects not working out in their original intent may be able to contribute in another role. For all the grief we've given the Cubs for their farm system in the past, this seems like an innovative way to maximize your resources.

True. It wasn't that long ago Carlos Marmol was catching. Now he's a god (Zeus, actually). If you object to my calling him a god, check out his career MLB numbers:

3 Years in the MLB:
161.2 IP, 10-8, 3.67 ERA, 175 K!

Take out 2006, when he was a starter and his ERA drops well below 2.00

... one more thing about Marmol, it's conceivable that he'll win a Cy Young or two someday.

Unless he becomes Mariano Rivera or the Cubs make him a starter again, it seems like a bit of a stretch for him to win a Cy Young. He'll be competing in his prime with guys like Zambrano, Yovani Gallardo, Cole Hamels, Oliver Perez, Chad Billingsley, Adam Wainwright, Aaron Harangue, Dan Haren, Brandon Webb, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jake Peavy. So even if we assume he's going to be by far the best reliever in the majors, which is not exactly a safe bet (though so far he has been great and will likely continue to be great), he'd have to also prove more valuable than any of the rest of those starters, plus any young guys who might emerge on the scene.

Delivery Man of the year? That seems more within his reach. He's definitely handicapped in the Cy Young contest by being a reliever, and a setup man at that. Not to mention he might pitch 120 innings out of the pen this year and screw up his arm because Piniella loves him so much.

Game time... which one is Mariano River, which one is Carlos Marmol?

Player A
--------
2007  71.1 IP, 74K, 3.15 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, .248 BAA
2008   9.0 IP,  8K, 0.00 ERA, 0.44 WHIP, .133 BAA

Player B
--------
2007  69.1 IP, 96K, 1.43 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, .169 BAA
2008  15.1 IP, 20K, 1.76 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, .137 BAA

And let me add that it would be one thing if this guy were a 'flash in the pan', but watch him pitch. There is *no doubt* why this guy is putting up these numbers. He's absolutely electric.

Actualy, I messed up. I noted Rivera because I was under the mistaken impression that he had won a Cy Young award as a closer.

What closers have? In a very, very brief search I've found only Eric Gagne.

That was basically what I was trying to say--that few relief pitchers are seriously considered for the Cy Young and that Marmol will have to be otherworldly out of the pen to even get votes against starters.

I completely agree that Marmol is a great pitcher, but I suspect that if you want him to have a real chance to win a Cy Young award you'll also have to hope they make him a starter again, just based on the biases of the award.

Alright, cool. But I'm contending that he is otherworldly, and someday, maybe a few years down the road when people take him more seriously, yes, he could win a Cy Young.

Relievers who have won Cy Young Awards:

Mike Marshall 1974
Sparky Lyle 1977
Bruce Sutter 1979
Rollie Fingers 1981
Willie Hernadez 1984
Steve Bedrosian 1987
Mark Davis 1989
Dennis Eckersly 1992
Eric Gagne 2003

It happens, just not all that often.

MLB was reliever crazy in the late 70s into the 80s...

eck and gangne deserve theirs, imo...

most of those guys in the 80s didnt.

to note just how f'n crazy reliever-love got...willie hernandez in 84 also won the MVP.

Some genius posters over at the Sun-Times.

http://blogs.suntimes.com/fullcourtpress/2008/04/w...

woah...muyco pitching?

it makes a lotta sense, but it should be interesting.

i dont recall him pitching at NCSU, but that's not unusual for these transition guys. it's a huge change...but so is not playing organized baseball because you've dead ended in your traditional area.

Hey AZ Phil,
Can you give any news on pitching prospect Scott Meyer? I saw in one of your earlier posts he was recovering from injury. Any news would be appreciated.

I am sorry to report that Will Oh-Man currently has a 1.13 era. - sigh -

If it's any consolation, Corey Patterson and Jerry Hairston J(uice)r. got picked off first base yesterday.

No worries, E-Man. We dumped not only him, but also Infante, for a kid with a really, really, live arm.

Yeah, but Oh - Man was still a jerk here, and not a great guy to have in your clubhouse (at least if you're the Cubs) - so less is more in this instance. Sometimes a change in scenery does wonders for your attitude.

I recall seeing an electric young pitcher, Kerry Wood, when he was the ripe old age of 19. He had yet to set foot in a major league stadium when we watched him pitch in an instructional league game in Arizona. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop me and everyone else from realizing that he was a man among boys.

from...

It Gets Late Early Out There

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/25/opinion/25glanvi...

"With the best arm among the catchers in the Cubs system, Jake Muyco..."

With all due respect, I believe that distinction goes to Wellington Castillo. I've seen both players extensively at Peoria and there is no question that Castillo has the superior arm. In fact, Oscar Bernard had a better arm than Muyco. I guess that's why the Cubs tried converting him to a pitcher as well.

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