Castillo's Arm Intrigues Cubs

CHICAGO—Theo Epstein is taking a long-term view of the Cubs while also trying to construct a roster that has a chance to win in 2012. He says the first goal will always trump the second, and that could be put to the test with the handling of Lendy Castillo.

The Cubs selected Castillo from the Phillies in the Rule 5 draft even though the converted shortstop has made just 38 career appearances as a pitcher. It seems highly unlikely that he could spend all of next season in the big leagues, but the Cubs will try to hide him at the back end of the bullpen if they like him enough. Alternatively, the Cubs could work out a trade with the Phillies that allows them to keep Castillo in their system without being on the big league team in 2012.

"Obviously, he's a long way away or they would've protected him, but we like him as a prospect and thought it was a worthwhile gamble taking him," general manager Jed Hoyer said. "We're hopeful it works out."

Under Lou Piniella, the Cubs selected a slightly more advanced pitching prospect in the Rule 5 draft. Righthander David Patton, who hadn't pitched above high Class A, threw strikes and got outs in the spring of 2009, earning a position in the bullpen. He would make 20 appearances during the season, with a 6.83 ERA, and was eventually released.

Castillo, a 21-year-old who signed with the Phillies out of the Dominican Republic in 2006, hit just .239/.287/.313 in three seasons as a shortstop in rookie ball. The Phillies put him on the mound in 2010, and he impressed scouts with his work in the low Class A South Atlantic League after opening that season in extended spring training. He flashed a fastball that sits in the low 90s with the ability to touch 96 mph and a breaking pitch that shows promise.

The 6-foot-1 righthander has gone 7-4, 2.43 since he was converted from shortstop after the 2009 season. He has 111 strikeouts and 42 walks in 111 innings. Hoyer said Castillo was recommended by scouting director Tim Wilken and special assistant Dave Littlefield.

"He's come along pretty quickly," Hoyer said.


• The Cubs added a gifted defender when they claimed middle infielder Jeff Bianchi on waivers from the Royals. Bianchi, drafted in the second round in 2005 out of high school as a shortstop, shifted between second base and short in Double-A last season. He's a .281/.335/.410 career hitter in the minors but batted .259/.320/.333 in 2011.

• The Cubs lost two infielders in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft, with the Orioles selecting third baseman Ryan Flaherty and the Red Sox taking shortstop Marwin Gonzalez. Flaherty was a sandwich-round pick from Vanderbilt in 2008 who hit .280 with 19 homers between Double-A and Triple-A last season.