Cubs prospect Trey McNutt keeps job but loses pal Chris Carpenter
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com February 21, 2012 10:54PM
Trey McNutt, a 32nd-round pick in the 2009 draft, was hampered by blisters last season. He remains the Cubs’ top pitching prospect. | Ezra Shaw~Getty Images
Updated: March 23, 2012 8:24AM
MESA, Ariz. — Trey McNutt sounded as though he just lost his best friend.
That might have been true. But what really hurt was that he just lost his ride.
‘‘I feel like I’m in elementary school again,’’ said McNutt, the Cubs’ top pitching prospect. ‘‘I had to call my wife to tell her to pick me up.’’
Turns out McNutt was involved in the Theo Epstein compensation deal after all, just not the way he and a lot of others envisioned.
The four-month saga concluded (for the most part) Tuesday, when the Cubs sent hard-throwing right-hander Chris Carpenter, McNutt’s daily ride, to the Boston Red Sox. The deal also includes a player to be named later from each side.
After an often contentious process that at times involved high-profile names such as Matt Garza and Starlin Castro, the resolution was reached with more of a whimper than a bang. It took a final push from commissioner Bud Selig to get it done.
Cubs brass said they were happy to put the issue behind them. Carpenter, a relief prospect who showed off an upper-90s fastball in a 10-game debut last season, said the news was ‘‘surreal’’ and reacted with ‘‘a little shock.’’
McNutt, the prospect mentioned most often this winter as the Red Sox’ compensation for Epstein, became the Cub whose life got turned upside down by staying put.
He loses one of his best friends from the organization, a workout partner and a spring-training roommate since last year. Not to mention a shotgun ride in Carpenter’s Jaguar.
‘‘It’s just crazy,’’ said McNutt, a 22-year-old right-hander trying to win a bullpen job. ‘‘I just hate it for him that he has to leave, right at the last second when pitchers and catchers are getting started. Spring training’s already stressful enough, especially when you’re trying to win a job. But he’s the most mentally tough person I’ve ever known. I don’t think this is going to faze him.’’
An hour or so after workouts wrapped up Tuesday at Fitch Park, McNutt was waiting for his wife to get off work and drive over in their pickup truck so he could go to their place and help Carpenter pack.
‘‘He’s a good teammate, good friend, good roommate,’’ McNutt said. ‘‘We’ll miss him, but things like this happen. The Red Sox did good on getting him. He’s going to be a real good one.’’
At least a half-dozen Cubs prospects were anticipating the day one or more of them was going to Boston.
‘‘Oh, yeah. Me and [Andrew] Cashner and Carp, all three of us were named,’’ McNutt said. The three pitchers spent a lot of time together in the Arizona Fall League speculating and joking about it.
Since then, Cashner was traded to the San Diego Padres for first-base prospect Anthony Rizzo. McNutt is the last of the trio still in a Cubs uniform.
‘‘It’s just crazy,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s hard to ... you lose friends. But they’re just on a different team now.’’
On Wednesday, McNutt, a 32nd-round pick in 2009, will get back to business. After a season in which he was hampered by two blisters, he’s trying to prove himself to a new manager and coaching staff.
If there’s an upside for McNutt, beyond his own immediate stability, it might be the living arrangements among the McNutts and their two other roommates, Cubs farmhands Greg Rohan and Justin Bour.
‘‘One guy was living in the living room, so we’ll all have a bedroom now,’’ McNutt said. ‘‘And I’m moving into Carp’s room. It’s the master. The other guys can kiss my butt.’’
Of course, this compensation stuff isn’t completely over. Not that anyone close to McNutt’s stature will be one of the players to be named. But there still is that issue of compensation to the Padres for Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod.
‘‘Don’t even bring that up,’’ McNutt said.