Cubs Working To Establish Pitching Pipeline





CHICAGO — The Cubs didn't waste any time in taking steps toward Theo Epstein's No. 1 goal: developing a pitching pipeline reliable enough to supply a perennial contender.

Arodys Vizcaino, acquired from the Braves for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson, was the biggest piece acquired in a series of moves at the trade deadline. But Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are also excited about high draft picks Pierce Johnson, Paul Blackburn, Duane Underwood and seven-figure international signing Juan Carlos Paniagua.

None of the new arms will likely have an impact in 2013, and it will take years to determine if Epstein and Hoyer got the right guys. But you have to start somewhere.

"Developing young pitching is a numbers game, because there's so much attrition between injuries and the natural struggles with development," Epstein said. "You need to identify a handful or more of pitching prospects to get one who can actually help you for an extended period in the big leagues."

Here are the pitchers the Cubs got:

• Vizcaino, 21, had Tommy John surgery in March. He reached Atlanta as a reliever at age 20, but the Cubs believe he can be a starter, possibly even a No. 2 starter.

•  Righthander Kyle Hendricks, 22, came from Texas with third baseman Christian Villanueva for Dempster. He had a 2.82 ERA in 20 starts at high Class A Myrtle Beach and won best changeup and best command in the Carolina League Best Tools survey.

•  Righthander Jake Brigham, 24, came from the Rangers for catcher Geovany Soto. He features a mid-90s fastball but got hit hard in his first two starts for Double-A Tennessee, then went on the disabled list.

•  Righthander Jaye Chapman, 25, came with Vizcaino in the Maholm deal. He was an effective reliever at Triple-A Gwinnett, with success especially against righthanded hitters.

CUBBY HOLE

•  In a reshuffling of the front office, the Cubs promoted Tim Wilken from scouting director to special assistant to Epstein, and fired farm director Oneri Fleita along with 25-year Cubs employee Chuck Wasserstrom.

•  Lefthander Chris Rusin made his big league debut at Milwaukee on Aug. 21. He became the 11th different starter for the Cubs this year and the 17th over the last two seasons. A fourth-round pick from Kentucky in the 2009 draft, he was 8-9, 4.59 over 24 starts with Triple-A Iowa.