One day I was looking at the Cubs 40-man roster, I noticed a couple new names I had never seen before, and quite honestly, I had never heard of either one. The names were Rocky Cherry and Clay Rapada. Who were these guys and where did they come from? Why had I never heard of them before especially now that they made the 40-man roster? Well I did some checking and now I know why, they are pitchers that have been pitching out of the bullpen in the minors and will likely continue in that role if they make it to the big club. I have nothing against relievers but they are like the offensive linemen in the NFL. You don’t know who they are, you just expect them to get the job done. Clay Rapada looks like the player with the most promise. He has been pretty impressive in his trek through the minors and there is a good chance he is going to be in the Cubs bullpen this year. He is another left-handed pitcher out of the bullpen so if things go as planned we could trade Will Ohman. Rapada isn’t a guy that you will see on the Cubs programs or in the highlights but he could be a great player for the Cubs if his stats in the minors are any sign. Success in the minors doesn’t mean he will succeed at the Major League level but Rapada seems to have the tools to transition well to the majors.
He was a closer at Double A West Tennessee last year where he managed 21 saves and struck out 45 while allowing only 10 walks before he was called up to Triple A Iowa. Rapada is a sidearm thrower and is known well in the minors as being tough to hit. He should get a good look in Spring Training and if he doesn’t make the team out of Spring Training he should get a chance sometime during the season as a fill-in. He isn’t a glamorous player and won’t get a lot of hype but he sounds like a guy that could really help our bullpen. If you haven’t heard of him yet you should be hearing of him soon.
Rocky Cherry has some talent too but he is new to the role as a reliever and he is right handed which isn’t as hard to find as good left handed relievers. Cherry was a starter for Oklahoma during his college career and he never had a great deal of success. The trouble continued after he joined the Cubs but after they converted him to a reliever, he did a good job. In 2006, for West Tennessee he appeared in 31 games and finished with a 4-1 record and an ERA of 2.22. He was called up to Triple A Iowa but struggled in the two games in which he appeared. He should at least start the season at Triple A but he doesn’t have much of a chance to make the big club at this point.
Rocky Cherry and Clay Rapada aren’t a couple guys that make Cubs fans salivate at the thought of seeing them play in Wrigley Field but they could see it at some time in their career. Rapada is almost a lock to see it before Cherry barring any setbacks. Rapada and his sidearm could see Wrigley this year but his success will depend on how well he adjusts. I have seen too many sidearm pitchers think they were unhittable and get lit up once they hit the majors. If he adjusts well to the majors, he could be a good addition for the Cubs and if he doesn’t, he could go back to an unknown very quickly.
For more of Thomas’ view on the Cubs, visit www.cubsfanhell.com