Novoa Brings Depth to Bullpen

Roberto Novoa had a chance to win a bullpen job with Detroit and now will probably make Chicago's relief staff. He pitched most of last season in Double-A but also worked 16 games for the Tigers and was 1-1 with a 5.57 ERA.

Novoa was acquired Feb. 9 by the Cubs along with minor leaguers Scott Moore and Bo Flowers from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for RHP Kyle Farnsworth, a hard-throwing but erratic relief pitcher, and a player to be named.

The player to be named later Detroit will get from Chicago could be linked to whether Novoa makes the Cubs' roster.

Moore becomes the latest in a long line of No. 1 draft choices who didn't pan out with Detroit. The eighth choice in the 2002 draft, Moore was switched from short to third after his pro debut.

His power is what attracted Detroit to him ahead of OF Jeremy Hermida, but he's had trouble making contact as a pro and hasn't handled the transition to third very well. Moore hit .223 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI in 118 games for Class A Lakeland in 2004.

Flowers was taken in the fifth round of the 2002 draft and Detroit persuaded him to sign instead of accepting a football scholarship (he was a quarterback).

Flowers has speed and power but had not advanced out of short-season ball until a handful of late season games at low Class A West Michigan last summer. Flowers played most of the season at Oneonta, hitting .280 with four home runs and 26 RBI in 66 games. He batted .273 in six games for West Michigan.

The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Farnsworth, who turns 29 on April 14, has a fastball that touches 100 mph. He appeared in 72 games for the Cubs last season and was 4-5 record with a 4.73 ERA.

"Kyle Farnsworth is an established major league relief pitcher," president/CEO/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "He can pitch in many roles out of our bullpen and is a quality addition to our pitching staff."

Farnsworth struck out 78 batters and was seventh among National League relievers with 10.53 strikeouts per nine innings. The Tigers' bullpen is now largely peopled by the hard throwers preferred by Dombrowski.

Farnsworth comes to the Tigers after a roller-coaster six years with the Cubs. He had a 1.93 ERA last July but a 19.29 ERA in August, and his ERA fluctuated wildly from season to season.

He fell out of favor in Chicago last August when he kicked a metal fan in the dugout, causing a knee sprain that put him on the disabled list during a pennant race.

In six seasons at the major league level with the Cubs, he went 22-37 with a 4.78 ERA. He is third all-time on the Cubs list for appearances with 343.

"Even if he doesn't improve at all, he's still going to help us," Tigers pitching coach Bob Cluck said. "This guy is not as good as he's going to be. That's my job."

Farnsworth, eligible for free agency after the season, recently avoided arbitration by signing a $1.975 million contract.

—RHP Ryan Dempster will be given the opportunity to close during spring training even though he has been a starter most of his career. Dempster posted a 3.92 ERA and two saves in 23 appearances in 2004 after undergoing "Tommy John" surgery in 2003.

—RHP LaTroy Hawkins blew nine saves in 2004, but manager Dusty Baker believes the longtime successful setup man was hindered by not knowing the National League. Still, if Dempster is effective, look for Hawkins to be an eighth-inning man.

—RHP Joe Borowski came out of nowhere to notch 33 saves in 2003 but was on the shelf most of 2004 with a shoulder injury. Borowski also had minor knee surgery but lost some weight and could come to camp in great shape. He could also contend for the open closer's spot.

—LHP Mike Remlinger is in the final year of a three-year contract, and injuries marred his 2004 season. He can usually make 70-plus appearances, but he was hindered by a shoulder injury, which allowed him to make just 48 last year. The 38-year-old Remlinger wants to prove he still has it when he tests the free agent waters next offseason.

—LHP Stephen Randolph will have to fight off LHPs Will Ohman and Raul Valdez for a spot as second lefty in the bullpen. Randolph came to the Cubs in a trade with Arizona, where he was effective out of the bullpen. He struggled in a starting role with the Diamondbacks in 2004.

—RHP Jon Leicester won five games in middle relief in 2004 and will battle Michael Wuertz, Todd Wellemeyer, Chad Fox, Sergio Mitre and Novoa for a spot as righty setup man/long reliever.

There are a lot of guys battling for spots in the 'pen, but the Cubs are still searching for a clear-cut closer candidate. They might scout closers during spring training and make a deal then. They have their eyes on Dotel and could try to pull off a deal to bring him to town.

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