I've finally returned from Paris and recovered from jet lag. Even in France I found time to read Cubs Den everyday as Adam, Mauricio, and Mike all did a great job keeping us all up to date. I was able to keep up with the beginning of Spring Training from across the Atlantic. It was a welcome break but I miss baseball and the community here.
One development that has me really excited is the health and development of Arodys Vizcaino, who was clocked at 98 mph yesterday.
For someone who is coming off of two major elbow injuries, however, the best news may be the simplest. Vizcaino reported that everything felt good after his session.
Vizcaino is unlikely to make the team out of spring training, as he hasn't pitched in live action since 2011. But it may not be long before he's helping the Cubs in some capacity. If he continues to impress the way he has so far, he's going to force the issue. Perhaps with some time early in Iowa (or perhaps Tennessee if the Cubs want to keep him in warmer weather early in his comeback) he could be knocking on the door sooner than we think. As long as he stays healthy, it is no longer an "if" about Vizcaino. The question now is when...the all-star break? Maybe even May?
The Cubs will also have to decide his role in the future. Starting him in the minors will allow the team to control his innings better. The minors give the Cubs the advantage of being able to make him as a starter but give him reliever innings. With the depth at the upper levels, the team could have another starter piggyback Vizcaino's starts. To me, this is the ideal solution because starting him gives him ample time to warm up and develop a regular routine, which could help keep him healthier early on as he continues to gain stamina and strength.
But Cubs fans might be more concerned about what his future role will be for the big league team. It may be too early to know that but Vizcaino may be the first Cub to break in Cardinals-style. That is, his route to the big leagues may start out in the bullpen to get his feet on the ground and keep his innings count low early in his career.
As a reliever, Vizcaino looks like he should be able to make an impact from day one. The high 90s heat and hammer curve ball give him two out pitches from the get-go. But Vizcaino also has the change-up and the potential for good command that separates starters from relief pitchers. The tools are there for him to eventually be an impact starter.
For right now though, it's all about staying healthy. The questions about when Vizcaino will make the jump to Wrigley and what role he will play when he gets there will eventually resolve themselves. There is reason to start believing that when he's ready Vizcaino will make an impact in whatever role he is asked to fill -- and I wouldn't be surprised to see him give the bullpen a big shot in the arm by midseason.
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