I wish I had a story to tell about Marcos Mateo. Alas, I've never seen him pensively strolling around Wrigley in a University of Texas tracksuit (James Russell) and he never tipped my girlfriend poorly at Bar Louie (Tom Gorzelanny). I feel about as informative as his Wikipedia page.
Still, Mateo is important enough to merit mention in our mega preview, so who is this guy and why should we care?
Mateo is almost 27 years old, he's from the Dominican Republic, and he's right-handed. As Rob mentioned yesterday, he throws pretty hard with a fastball in the 92-95 mph range. Mateo can collect strikeouts (26 K in 21.2 IP) but is suspect to the home run (6) when his fastball isn't moving. Other than that, he's got a decent slider, and that's about it.
He made 21 appearances in August and September/October for the 2010 Cubs, posting a 5.82 ERA. While that doesn't sound great, Mateo started to show promise at the end of the season. He finished August with a 10.45 ERA and nearly cut that number in half by accumulating a 1.59 ERA in September/October.
Great, but why should we, as Cubs fans, care?
Let's assume Quade opens the season with seven in the bullpen. Marmol, Marshall, Wood and Grabow are guaranteed sports. With Wells, Silva, and Cashner competing for two rotation openings, the loser will probably have a relief role reserved. Samardzija is out of options-ish and will most likely be in the bullpen to begin the season. Quade said he'd like to carry at least three lefty relievers (Russell being the third, presumably). So the bullpen looks pretty much set, no?
Not being a lefty hurts Mateo's chances. Not having a large sample size hurts. Not being outstanding in any particular area hurts. Having to compete with a slew of right-handed pitchers (Guzman, Coleman, Diamond, Stevens, Berg, and Caridad) really hurts. But with a nice spring, Mateo and his fastball could be one of the first bullpen call-ups of 2011.
For this reason, Mateo is worth keeping an eye on when he opens the season in Iowa.