Cubs pitcher Chris Volstad earns praise
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org February 22, 2012 8:58PM
Chris Volstad is a power pitcher with a 6-8 frame. “The kid’s a beast out there,” Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio said. | Morry Gash~AP
Updated: March 24, 2012 9:08AM
MESA, Ariz. — The Cubs wasted little time deciding not to retire Carlos Zambrano’s number.
With the ink still wet on the $15.3 million check the Cubs sent to the Miami Marlins to take the problem-child pitcher, the club gave his No. 38 to non-roster backup catcher candidate Jason Jaramillo.
Just as quickly, Big Z’s locker stall went from one of the most active media spots in the Fitch Park clubhouse to one of the quietest. Mild-mannered veteran pitcher Trever Miller moved in.
The player who will be most linked to Zambrano is 6-8 right-hander Chris Volstad, the 25-year-old first-round pick the Marlins sent to the Cubs. But he isn’t thinking about filling Z’s shoes.
‘‘Yeah, he was a big presence. He’d been around here for a while,’’ Volstad said. ‘‘But I just think about me coming in and trying to help this team. This is the situation we have.’’
It’s a situation the new Cubs’ regime welcomes, and not only because of the addition-by-subtraction factor.
In Volstad, the Cubs see a power pitcher whose potential barely has been tapped in 31/2 seasons with his hometown Marlins.
‘‘The upside of this guy is phenomenal,’’ pitching coach Chris Bosio said. ‘‘Being able to find young pitchers with that kind of size and that kind of stuff, that’s a needle in a haystack. The kid’s a beast out there. And he does fill up a doorway walking through a room.’’
So what happened last season, when he went 5-13 with a 4.89 ERA? And why hasn’t he been able to recreate the success he had during a 14-start big-league debut in 2008, when he went 6-4 with a 2.88 ERA?
Volstad doesn’t have a big, sweeping answer to cover that. While he downplays the pressure of being a first-round pick as a factor, he said a once-effective curveball he got away from using could be part of it. He also said a change of scenery could help.
‘‘I definitely don’t think I’ve pitched to my ability,’’ said Volstad, who has been one of Bosio’s most serious students in camp. ‘‘I think I’ve shown flashes of it, games here and there, and maybe a little streak here and there. But I haven’t put a whole season together yet, and I really think I can.’’
Said manager Dale Sveum: ‘‘I think we just forget that the guy got to the big leagues really young, didn’t pitch a whole lot [in the minors] and has had to learn at the big-league level.’’
Despite having an imposing frame similar to Zambrano’s and borrowing Zambrano’s annual tradition of seeking a new start, Volstad seems nothing like Big Z. He’s almost conspicuously quiet, focused and keeps what Bosio calls an ‘‘internal burn’’ to himself.
‘‘This kid’s got a big arm, a lot of potential,’’ Bosio said. ‘‘Hey, we traded a guy that’s 40 games over .500 for this kid. Chris can only control what Chris can do. Right now, I’m very happy with where he’s at in spring and the way he’s going about his work. I can only imagine what the capabilities of his stuff are if we’re able to harness that.’’