De La Cruz On The Move

The Deal
Given only a cursory big league look with the Tigers and Marlins in the previous two seasons, Eulogio de la Cruz has registered a 13.21 ERA in 15 2/3 innings. The 25-year-old righthander must be eager, then, to improve upon that performance this season—if only some team would give him a chance. Well, opportunity now knocks for de la Cruz, who is out of options, after the Marlins traded him to the Padres for a player to be named or cash considerations. Not only does he have the chance to start fresh with a new organization, but he has the luxury of doing so in San Diego’s spacious Petco Park. It’s the best of both worlds.
The Young Player
Though he doesn’t look like a flamethrower at 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, de la Cruz throws hard. Really hard. While pitching for Triple-A Albuquerque last season, his fastball regularly hit 94-96 mph and touched 98-99, but not without a loss of command and movement. De la Cruz’s sinking changeup is a swing-and-miss offering at its best, and the pitch helped him compile a fine 2.23 groundout-to-airout ratio on the year. That skill, more than any other, kept him relevant in Isotopes Park. He went 13-8, 4.34 in 25 starts overall, racking up 118 strikeouts in 147 innings while allowing 60 walks and 13 home runs. But a look at de la Cruz’s performance away from Isotopes Park, the most hitter-friendly environment in Triple-A, is more instructive. On the road, he went 6-4, 3.19 with 50 strikeouts, 25 walks and two home runs in 62 innings. In fact, the shift from Isotopes Park to Petco Park may be the most dramatic in baseball. Because he lacks a reliable breaking ball (he throws a hard curveball) and because he’s on the short side for a righthanded starter, de la Cruz profiles in a relief role. He may have the opportunity to disprove that notion in 2008, though.

We’ll analyze the player headed to Miami as soon as he’s announced.

Quick Take
Doing its part to stimulate the economy, San Diego has created all sorts of jobs for pitchers this spring with its wide-open rotation and bullpen situations. Jake Peavy, Chris Young and Heath Bell are in—as is Cla Meredith, in all likelihood—but the other seven or eight roster spots are largely up for grabs. Those are great odds for de la Cruz as well as recent free agent import Shawn Hill, provided that he’s recovered from the elbow and forearm soreness that plagued him in 2008 (and throughout his career). Both righthanders have the raw tools for success, so credit the Padres for buying low on both—even if the acquisitions were fueled by necessity.

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