Rohlicek Ready for Challenge

"It's a big step," said LHP Russ Rohlicek. "I'm looking forward to the changes. There are a lot of older guys at this level and it is going to be a good experience."                                                            

Rohlicek pitched last season at Double-A West Tenn, where he finished 5-5 with a solid 2.09 ERA in 60 relief appearances. He was hoping to compete for a spot on the parent club's Opening Day roster as a left-hander out of the bullpen, but fell just short this spring.

He admits he was slightly disappointed.

"Yeah, you know, I didn't put up the numbers I was hoping and expecting to this spring for whatever reason," Rohlicek said. "But I learned a lot and got a lot of experience that gets me ready for the future. The veterans' approach to the game, and the way they go about their business and handle things is just extraordinary."

Rohlicek surrendered seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings with the Cubs this spring. He says he didn't know quite what to expect this spring, and that there were new things he had to learn to deal with.

What new things exactly?

"You know, being around guys that are a lot more seasoned than you are with a lot more experience," Rohlicek said. "Learning how to pitch to hitters that have been in the big leagues for 10 years or more was certainly different. A lot of the better hitters have progressed the way I have, and you get to know them and learn how to get them out."

Rohlicek, a 25-year-old California native who attended college at Long Beach State, will now begin the year at Triple-A Iowa. He has set relatively few goals entering 2005.

"In terms of success, I'm just looking to get better and improve in whatever ways I can," Rohlicek said. "The goal is to eventually get into the major leagues, and that's what I've been working at for a long time."

With Iowa opening up the regular season at Albuquerque Thursday night, the team has stayed in Mesa to prepare for the trip east; the rest of the Cubs' minor leaguers assigned to a full-season affiliate have already arrived at their 2005 destinations. The stay-over in Mesa has given Rohlicek extra time to get to know some of his coaches and shape his opinions of this year's Iowa squad.

"I'm just now getting to know Coach (Mike) Quade, our manager," Rohlicek said. "Rick Kranitz (the team's pitching coach) was my manager at Daytona two years ago, so I'm familiar with him. So far, it seems like we're going to be a really good team. We have a great mix of veterans and young players.

"I think we can really feed off each other."

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