Published March 19, 2004 - Lansing State Journal

Ex-Lugnut patiently awaits (another) call to majors

By Jordan Bastian
For the Lansing State Journal

MESA, Ariz. - It is long before game time and most of the Chicago Cubs’ players are still getting dressed, grabbing something to eat, or sitting and talking with teammates.

But not former Lugnut pitcher Sergio Mitre, who could be an important addition to the major league roster later this season.

Back in the far corner of the room - beyond the media surrounding Sammy Sosa and past the lockers reserved for pitching aces Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and Greg Maddux - Mitre sits alone. Already in uniform, he sits with his arms resting on his legs and his head down.

He seems to be waiting for someone to call his name.

"If he continues the progress he is on, he could be one of the primary call-ups if something happens," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.

Last July, Mitre was called up suddenly from Double-A West Tennessee to replace Prior, who had been injured during a collision with Atlanta’s Marcus Giles.

"You never want to move up because of injury," Mitre said. "If during the season it happens, then it happens. But that is definitely not how you want to go about it.

"If I’m called up, I’ll be ready."

Mitre, the Cubs’ seventh-round selection in 2001, was only the second Cub from that draft to make it to the majors. The other was Prior.

After amassing 128 strikeouts in 24 starts for West Tennessee last year, Mitre allowed eight runs in only three innings to the Braves at Turner Field on July 22.

The outing itself was discouraging. The lesson Mitre learned was a major step in his progress.

"It is still baseball, but it is so much better up here," he said. "You might be able to get away with certain things in (minor league baseball) that definitely will not be happening up here."

Mitre’s next major league start was Sept. 28, the day after Chicago clinched the Central Division title. Against Pittsburgh that day, he threw four scoreless innings and struck out three.

This spring, he has gone 1-0 in three appearances with a 3.86 ERA.

"I heard he threw the ball pretty good," Baker said last week about Mitre’s only start of the spring. "You want to see improvement, which he has."

Mitre spent 2002 with Lansing and posted a 2.83 ERA in 27 starts. After being drafted in 2001, he played with single-A Boise, where he went 8-4.

In 66 minor league starts, Mitre has walked more than two batters only four times; 14 of those starts, he walked none.

Mitre will probably begin the season with Triple-A Iowa, but he has used his brief time with the major league club last season and this spring to learn from the veterans around him.

"I just ask questions if I have a doubt or I see something," Mitre said. "I’ve talked to Maddux a few times and (Mike) Remlinger. They have been around a long time and they have been very successful. If you want to talk to somebody there is always someone here."


Copyright 2005 Jordan Bastian. All Rights Reserved.