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chang yong limAt long last, an Arodys Vizcaino update!

The 22-year-old pitching prospect who had Tommy John surgery in March 2012 came over to the Cubs in the Paul Maholm trade last year. Since then, he’s been rehabbing, but we haven’t heard much of anything about that rehab. In fact, we’d heard conflicting reports about where he was rehabbing – some had him at the Cubs’ facilities in Mesa, while others had him training with one of the minor league teams.

Whatever the case, Vizcaino is now in Chicago to continue his rehab, and is a couple weeks (or more) away from throwing in a game. Let’s imagine that Vizcaino returns in a month, and does so at some upper level of the minor leagues. Is that bad? Well, it’s certainly longer than you’d like to see a guy take to come back from TJS in the current era (late June would be 15 months post-surgery for Vizcaino, which is a very long time to return to minor league game action nowadays). But, given Vizcaino’s age, previous arm concerns, and the fact that nobody expected him to be an important piece of the 2013 Chicago Cubs, I would hope the Cubs are being extremely cautious with Vizcaino’s return. There’s just no reason to rush him, or even to hold him to a “typical” time line. Until someone gives me a reason to be concerned, I’m going to assume that the Cubs are just taking it slow because they can.

I suspect that Vizcaino has been brought to Chicago for a final look before he heads to the minors, so the Cubs’ brass can have up-close-and-personal input on where he should go, what role he should start out in, and what kinds of pitches he should be throwing at this point. If that’s true, then his return to game action in the minors really could be just a couple weeks away.

Speaking of Tommy John rehabs, remember Korean reliever Chang-Yong Lim? His signing this Winter sparked outrage for reasons that were never entirely clear to me, given that his deal was a Major League/minor league split that costs the Cubs only when Lim makes the big leagues, and gives the Cubs control over him through 2014. He’s been rehabbing his second Tommy John surgery in Mesa, per TCR, and just threw 25 pitches of live batting practice. That should put him pretty close to being in some extended Spring Training games, and, if that goes well, we could actually see him with the Cubs in the second half of the season. That assumes he’s effective and the Cubs decide calling him up (and paying him the Major League portion of his contract) is worth it at that point.

Lim’s recovery from Tommy John has been much more rapid than Vizcaino’s: Lim just had his second TJS in July.

As for Scott Baker, who had Tommy John surgery last April, and who suffered a setback in his recovery back in March, the righty still isn’t facing batters as he rehabs in Mesa – at least not according to any updates I’ve seen. It now appears extremely optimistic that Baker will be with the Cubs any time before July, making his $5.5 million one-year deal something of a sunk cost in a lost season.

Given the prolonged recoveries of Baker and Vizcaino, as well as a recent TJS-related setback suffered by pitching prospect Josh Conway, and Robert Whitenack’s struggles to come back from TJS (before being DFA’d), the recent anecdotal evidence points to picking up injured pitchers as not quite the silver bullet the front office has suggested, in words and actions, that it is.

Then again, it could just be more Cubs bad luck. Hopefully Conway’s setback is a small one, Baker’s arm-strength-build-up is a quick one, Lim’s debut is a good one, and Vizcaino’s return is a long-term-quality one. As for Whitenack … well … hopefully he finds success at some point.

  • The Dude Abides

    I’m sure they are being extra cautious with Vizcaino due to his 2010 torn right elbow ligament and 2011 Tommy John, hasn’t pitched since then. High risk – high reward…

  • King Jeff

    To be fair, Conway’s injury was a freak accident that happened when he slipped on his follow through on a crappy mound. I’m not sure that it had anything to do with his previous injury.

    The news is really kind of crap in regards to Baker. He’s only on a one year deal, and it looks like he’s going to collect his 5 million for a month or two of work, and jet through free agency if he’s proven to be effective in his short, overpaid stint in Chicago.

    • jdblades

      Could Baker go through waivers, after the trade deadline, and be traded for prospects?

      • mak

        Theoretically. However, assuming he pitches well enough to merit trade consideration for anything significant, it would be hard to get him through waivers in the first place (usually, a long term contract with a lot of guaranteed money is the deterrent to claim a guy).

      • Jp3

        I wouldn’t give a wet fart for Baker and his $5.5mill prorated salary at this point

        • willis

          Agreed.

      • Kyle

        If he’s pitching well enough to earn a notable prospect, he won’t get through waivers.

        I’m guessing we’ll be able to get a tiny amount of salary relief for him in August if need be.

        • Mike

          I could see them activating him then passing him through waivers right away. Then let him earn some value and then trade him during August. A player only needs to pass through waivers once. Most likely we will have built good faith with Baker and extend him.

    • MichiganGoat

      If Baker returns and looks good there is always the possibility that he works out a team friendly contract with the Cubs. It may not be a complete and total loss just yet, he might also consider another “prove it” deal so that he might get a decent contract after a full year of performance in 2014. All this will become a huge discussion when he returns and can be evaluated.

      • Cyranojoe

        This is what I’d expect, especially the team-friendly aspect, considering the faith they showed in him with the $5.5 mil. Totally agree with you, Goat.

        • Jp3

          Hmmm, prove it deal? Is this like the prove it 2nd deal we gave Stewart after we gave him money last year to not play? I hate prove it deals

          • Cubbie Blues

            except Stewart didn’t receive a “prove it” deal. He was given a lottery ticket that he turned into a “nanananabooboo you can’t cut me if I’m injured” deal.

            • Jp3

              Oh yeah😃. As much as I believe people are decent human beings I’m not sure I believe baseball players are greatful that someone paid them hansdsomely while they were hurt and will give give them a break on their next contract. I’ve seen too many examples where that just isn’t the case, I blame the agents mostly.

            • Jp3

              Not that it was injury related but Pooholes for example leaving The Cards for the Angels for a couple million more? These guys agents tell them to get every nickel not nailed down because they should… Loyalty is dead in sports

              • Cubbie Blues

                To be fair, Poophole got basically a 20 year contract with the FO gig thrown in on the back end (no pun intended).

                • Jp3

                  Hopefully he’ll be a worse FO member than he was as a player for the Angels. It would serve both of them right. Love the pun btw cubbie blues

              • hansman1982

                Loyalty was never really alive in sports…unless you count the loyalty players used to have because they only had 2 choices:

                play for the team that drafted/traded for you/signed you as an amateur or not play baseball.

                It’s like saying that guys in baseball used to be nice guys, but now their just cheater, jerk-faces.

                • Jp3

                  Yeah I really like the term Cheater Jerk-faces😀. Awesome nickname for the Brewers organization from now on if you ask me.

  • mudge

    Great piece, thanks.

  • JB88

    Was there anything ever announced definitively wrt Conway? A “loud pop” sounds awfully bad …

    • mak

      Sullivan reported a stress fracture of the elbow, and AZ PHIL confirmed that is in a full arm cast. Done for the year, which is such a shame because he looked like a steal and ready to join Kane County potentially. Hopefully taking the rest of the year off doesn’t side track his progress too long.

      • #1lahairfan

        It’s really too bad because in the drat he slipped because of TJ.

        • #1lahairfan

          Draft

      • When the Music’s Over

        This is more typical Cubbery. Dude rehabs back from TJ surgery, is looking great, and screws up his arm because of a shitty mound. You can’t write this stuff.

  • cubmig

    I always worry, that, if these rehab-recycled signings are let go because the judgment is they won’t be able to “cut it”, that some other team sees the situation differently, takes a flyer on one or more and they pan out. After all the time and resource care invested in them, the Cubs come out on the wrong-end-of-the-stick. That would be so Cubs. The question remains though: Is the FO still going to salivate over damaged goods the way they do?

  • Jp3

    Hmmm… What kind of pitches to throw coming off injury? how about the not Hayden Simpson variety, the MEATBALL ones.

  • Hee Seop Chode

    Sign all the Tommy John recipients!

    • Jp3

      “show me the Carfax”

  • mudge

    If the Cubs trade Garza and Feldman at the deadline, Baker steps in and keeps the staff respectable.

    • Featherstone

      if were trading off Garza and Feldman wouldn’t we want our staff to be atrocious?

      • mudge

        Not as atrocious as last year. You lose faith if you don’t have a major league team out there. I don’t think they can do that again.

  • baseballet

    The Cubs need to develop a core staff of doctors to evaluate these arm injuries. Preferably young, unproven doctors as Ricketts cannot afford top, veteran doctors over the age of 30. They could build a medical school in the Dominican Republic for their med school prospects there.

    • #1lahairfan

      Lol.

  • mudge

    So where exactly is Baker pitching in this rotation if he’s healthy by now?

  • When the Music’s Over

    I understand taking things real slow with Vizcaino, but if I had to guess, the guy is going to need more work than people are assuming in order to be in Chicago. He’s only had about 75 IP above A ball (and a total of 285 professional IP). Still a very inexperienced arm.

    • willis

      Yes. For people that are counting on him to be a huge contributor I would urge caution. Many just assumed it was an awesome deal and this guy would be a big factor for the team going forward. But he’s got a glass elbow and hasn’t proved he can stay healthy to this point. Sure his talent is off the charts, but I would wait for a year or two before thinking he’ll be a core piece to a decent/succesful team.

  • Bill

    I’m very surprised by this news. A couple months ago there was a poster here who was saying these were great signings because these guys come back better than ever 95% of the time. He joke that they possess bionic arms, stronger than ever. Shocking to find out this isn’t the case.

    • willis

      Or not shocking at all?

  • David

    Just wondering where the notion that Conway’s injury is a TJS related setback came from? Not being argumentative, just wondering if I missed something.

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