Arms Race

Several young hurlers have caught the Cubs' eyes




CHICAGOAs spring training headed into its final couple of weeks, the Cubs had a few minor league pitchers who were either giving officials pause or reason to beam about the future.

Big league Rule 5 pick David Patton appeared to be a long shot to make it in the bullpen, but through 11 appearances, the righthander had compiled an 0.73 ERA in 121⁄3 innings of work, notching 15 strikeouts and just two walks.

"He's in the picture here," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We're not pitching him early in the ballgames. We're pitching him later in the game with leads to see how he responds. He's throwing strikes and showing composure."

Righthander Esmailin Caridad, 25, threw six shutout innings, allowing four hits and two walks in his first six appearances. Caridad was sent to minor league camp in mid-March but he left a good impression.

Last year, he was a starter and split time with high Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, posting a 13-7, 3.73 mark.

He closed his 2008 season on a good note, throwing 4 1/3 innings of no-hit ball Aug. 29 against Carolina before a rain delay ended his outing.

In 11 appearances, 27-year-old lefthander Jason Waddell had a 0.90 ERA with four walks and 10 strikeouts in 10 innings.

Waddell never pitched above Double-A in eight minor league seasons with the Giants. But he opened some eyes in Cubs camp, and Piniella liked the way the lefty threw strikes. He could join Caridad as early or midseason callups if they continue to develop in the minors.

Righthander Justin Berg, who had a 5.68 ERA at Triple-A Iowa in 2008, also had an impressive spring training, racking up a 1.23 ERA in his first 71⁄3 innings in Cactus League play. His 222 walks compared to 294 strikeouts in his minor league career is a concern, but he's been working on perfecting a sinker that could become useful at Wrigley Field.

Cubbyhole

• Catcher Geovany Soto hit .231/.308/.444 with two RBIs in four games for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic before rejoining the Cubs for the final two weeks of camp.

• The Cubs stand to profit plenty from big-ticket concerts scheduled at Wrigley Field in 2009, including an Elton John-Billy Joel show. Taking a page from the Cubs' book, Iowa's Principal Park will host the Dave Matthews Band on Sept. 25.