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Oscar De La Cruz Is Ready For Double-A Challenge

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The Cubs hope righthander Oscar de la Cruz is at a point where his raw stuff and physical potential will now translate into bottom-line results.

Originally signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012 as a shortstop, de la Cruz is now in his sixth season in the organization and has grown into a 6-foot-4, 200-pound power pitcher.

The Cubs saw enough flashes to put him on their 40-man roster last November, even though he had not played above Class A or thrown more than 75 innings in a season.

The Cubs are slotting the 23-year-old de la Cruz into what could be an interesting Double-A Tennessee rotation, alongside fellow righties Thomas Hatch, Trevor Clifton, Duncan Robinson and Michael Rucker.

"He’s a big, strong guy with a power fastball and two offspeed pitches that are big league pitches,” farm director Jaron Madison said. "We’re excited to keep him healthy and just see what he can do in a full season. It will be a challenge for him with the Double-A promotion, but mentally and makeup-wise, he can handle it.”

The Cubs will be carefully managing de la Cruz’s workload after last season’s glimpses at high Class Class A Myrtle Beach. He went 4-3, 3.46 in 12 starts and 54.2 innings.

"We are really excited to see him just compete for a full season,” Madison said. "That’s really been the issue we’ve run into. He’s had these little issues. He had the (pectoral) strain last year, so it’s just about keeping him on the field for a full season and watching him compete, because he has big league stuff.”

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>> The Cubs held righthander Adbert Alzolay back in extended spring training after he lost time in camp with an ankle injury. He might be a couple weeks behind schedule, but the Cubs said his right arm is in good shape. He will begin at Tennessee or Triple-A Iowa and could move quickly if he pitches well.

>> The Cubs are constantly searching for pitching reclamation projects, and lefthander Danny Hultzen, the No. 2 overall pick in 2011 who is now 28, fits the bill. He never reached the majors with the Mariners after having two shoulder surgeries, but he was working out at the Cubs' Arizona complex with an eye toward eventually joining an affiliate to see—in Madison’s word—"if he can get back some of that magic.”

Patrick Mooney covers the Cubs for The Athletic Chicago.

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