Wednesday, June 06, 2007

welcome to the majors, sean gallagher

angel guzman unfortunately continues to make the kansas city royals look pretty smart for voiding him back in 1999 -- guzman was placed on the disabled list today with right forearm problems.

Guzman first complained of soreness Saturday morning and stopped throwing for a couple of days. He felt it again Tuesday morning, and trainer Mark O'Neal decided to send Guzman to Chicago to be examined Wednesday morning.

The Cubs believe he doesn't have a serious injury, despite his past forearm cramping.

"It's precautionary," assistant general manager Randy Bush said. "We're characterizing it more as tenderness. [Guzman] has some injury history going back, so we feel for his own peace of mind we'll let the doctor look at it.

"We don't want him going out there with any doubts about what's going on. The right thing to do is put his mind at ease. We really don't feel like it's anything to worry about. He has a bright future."

Guzman has a history of shoulder problems and missed most of the 2004 and '05 seasons in the Cubs' farm system. He was moved into a relief role two weeks ago when the Cubs decided his hamstring problems were too much of a concern to leave him as a starter.

Guzman said he doesn't think "it's something big." He said his forearm fatigue was not related to his previous cramping.

"It's a different feeling that I have," he said. "It's a kind of tightness. I don't want to try to throw through it because you can change your arm angle and not feel the tightness. I don't want to do that."

Is Guzman worried about his future?

"Of course I'm worried," he replied. "My arm is the reason I'm here."

with all due respect to randy bush, the problem is something to worry about, and guzman's future is no longer particularly bright. it was the royals that years ago diagnosed guzman with a genetic forearm problem, which caused them to void the contract to which they had signed him as a 16-year-old venezuelan less than four months previously. the cubs picked him up that following winter, and his journey through professional baseball with the cubs has since been one of the more arduous tales of physical woe one might imagine.

for this reason, this writer has long seen guzman as a reliever -- to place him in a starting role, regardless of his talent, is to invite yet another instance of the hope abridged which cub fans have got too much of recently thanks to the intersection of kerry wood, mark prior and dusty baker. repeated problems with his shoulder and forearm (which the cubs have persistently and deceptively euphemized for public consumption as "cramping") have further taken the high sheen off guzman's stuff, leaving him something significantly less than the pitcher that many watchers of the organization had once touted as a future ace. of course it is with best wishes for guzman that all this is said, but the reality is that guzman could not before and can not now be considered a major league starting pitcher -- what talent his body will allow him to consistently harness is simply not enough.

but guzman's loss is another's gain, and 21-year-old sean gallagher is being readied for a bullpen role with the cubs. gallagher emerged from the 12th round of the 2004 draft to become perhaps the cubs most highly valued pitching prospect after rich hill even last year as a 20-year old, pitching quite well between high-a daytona and double-a west tenn. a sinking fastball that has moved into the low 90s with maturity has complimented a very sharp breaking pitch along with a changeup and slider to help him exceed expectations. command -- long a strong point -- became an issue in west tenn last season with 55 walks in 86.1 innings, but such fears have subsided somewhat in 2007 with gallagher posting 24 in 61 innings (3.5 bb/9) over 11 starts for tennessee. there's some dated scouting info here.

one shouldn't get just too excited for early returns -- with only slightly more vetting than sean marshall had in 2006 and being yet younger, gallagher figures to struggle to adapt to the major league game. but the eventual upside is considerable -- gallagher will hopefully be an anchor in the cub rotation for years to come, with the possibility of exceeding hill's duration in that role thanks to his age (hill is already 27) in spite of a lower ceiling.

carlos marmol will move into a setup role to give gallagher breathing room. someone is to be moved off the 40-man to make room for gallagher, but there's no word of who yet -- one might suspect roberto novoa to the 60-day, but changes will be made to the following table to reflect the truth when known.

UPDATE: indeed, it's novoa.

1Carlos ZambranoRyan DempsterScott Eyre*Michael BarrettDerrek LeeAlfonso Soriano
2Ted Lilly*Bob HowryWill Ohman*Koyie Hill**Mark DerosaJacque Jones*
3Jason MarquisMichael WuertzNeal Cotts*Henry BlancoRyan TheriotCliff Floyd*
4Rich Hill*Carlos MarmolClay Rapada*Geovany SotoAramis RamirezMatt Murton
5Sean Marshall*Sean Gallagher  Cesar Izturis**Felix Pie*
6Wade MillerRocky Cherry  Daryle Ward*Angel Pagan**
7Juan MateoAngel Guzman  Mike Fontenot*Buck Coats*
8Jeff Samardzija   Ronny Cedeno 
9    Scott Moore* 
10    Brian Dopirak 
60-dayMark PriorKerry Wood    
60-day Roberto Novoa    

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