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)

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.

Recent comments

Subscribe to Recent comments
The first 600 characters of the last 16 comments, click "View" to see rest of comment.
  • Trading for Warren, Warren sucking, getting Warren back for Chapman plus 3 prospects, sounds like Revenge of The Yankees on the former Boston executive. Old rivalries never die.

    I pray to the heavens above Chapman doesn't suck for some reason, or he'll be booed out of town faster than a Todd Hundley revival meeting.

    Old and Blue 5 min 36 sec ago view
  • I'm kind of nostalgic for the Schwarber-for-Miller rumors.

    Brick 17 min 20 sec ago view
  • This offseason, after some ridiculous playoff run and Chapman saving every game from here until the end of the postseason striking out 27/9innings, I welcome anyone to quote this thread and call me a dummy: I hate this trade, and my hate is 2 parts Chapman makes this team less likeable and 1 part that's a ridiculous overpay for 30 regular season innings and, at tops, 10 postseason innings. Already hoping they don't extend him.

    Charlie 19 min 9 sec ago view
  • btw...Thanks AZ Phil. I'm really enjoying your take on this trade.

    Cubster 41 min 28 sec ago view
  • I'm a bit disappointed on the Warren experience. Essentially they gave Castro away for crickets (OK, well they signed Zobrist with the Castro salary dump). Otherwise one might look at it as Chapman for Castro and our #1 minors prospect (Torres) + McKinney/Crawford. Seems pricey for a 2 month rental. We will see if this price tag is that steep in a relative way based on the remaining deadline deals for relievers.

    Cubster 41 min 56 sec ago view
  • Yep. One of the great things about this team (in addition to being really good at baseball) was the "likable" factor. Feels a bit different now. Who knows...maybe Chapman will be the king of the dance parties.

    billybucks 50 min 45 sec ago view
  • Here are some possible corresponding minor league moves we might see in the aftermath  of the Chapman trade: 

    SOUTH BEND to MYRTLE BEACH: OF Donnie Dewees and INF Bryant Flete  

    EUGENE to SOUTH BEND: OF Robert Garcia and INF Vimael Machin 

    There is really no reason to replace Billy McKinney at Tennessee because both Chris Coghlan and Jorge Soler are doing their rehab at Tennessee.  

    And there are plenty of pitchers at Iowa. No need to replace Warren at AAA. .  

    Arizona Phil 1 hour 10 min ago view
  • I am 70 years old. The Cubs last played in the World Series in 1945. I was born in 1946. I hate to lose a prospect like Torres, but when the opportunity is there to get that World Series ring, you go for it. This was the idea in stock piling all this young talent. I would like to see Reddick added now and the Cubbies should be done.

    Hagsag 1 hour 41 min ago view
  • I would expect Richard to accept an optional assignment because based on how he's played this season, there is a decent chance that he won't find work elsewhere. Rather stay and potentially get a ring. Same goes for Coghlan since he's struggled mightily this year.

    Edwards should not go down. He's pitched very well and Maddon is very impressed with him. I would expect Grimm to go down for Cahill so he can get back on track (he's pitched better in July, but he's not getting enough appearances).

    chitownmvp01 1 hour 44 min ago view
  • chitownmvp01: Indeed Clayton Richard would seem to be odd man out once Chapman reports, but Richard might accept a minor league assignment if he is promised a return to Chicago on 9/1 when MLB Active List rosters expand (Richard has minor league ioptions left).

    Arizona Phil 1 hour 47 min ago view
  • The only player in the deal that would cause me a second thought is Gleyber Torres.

    McKinney and Crawford are decent prospects but both are redundant/replaceable in the system and Warren was really only a middle-reliever or #6 starter, so to me it's really just Torres for Chapman.

    Arizona Phil 2 hours 8 min ago view
  • There is no Comp pick for players traded mid-season. 2+ months of Chapman is it.

    mbauer 2 hours 10 min ago view
  • to get one of the best you have to give up one/some of your best...but it's a bit painful to watch the system's best prospect walk for any 2-3 month rental, especially one that's not an everyday player.

    crunch 2 hours 13 min ago view
  • I assume Chapman will replace Richard on the roster, but who goes down when Cahill gets activated? Maybe Grimm?

    And when Soler and Coghlan get healthy, how do they fit them on the roster when they're ready to be activated?

    chitownmvp01 2 hours 16 min ago view
  • We are giving up a lot, but it's not like we're trading Addison Russell for 2+ months of Jason Hammel. When impact players become available, they are going to cost you. The other bids could also have been high.

    Having Chapman as a rental is potentially less disruptive than having him come in with an extension in place. 

    CTSteve 2 hours 17 min ago view
  • Billy McKinney had season-ending knee surgery last August and came to Minor League Camp this year somewhat restricted. (He was used mostly as a DH in Cactus League Minor League Camp games), and I'm not sure he's 100% right now (he's repeating AA, and his XBH numbers are way down, like he's not getting good rotation in his lowev half). That might have been part of the reason why the trade wasn't completed right away.

    Arizona Phil 2 hours 25 min ago view