Pawelek Shows Improvement

For five innings on Friday night, Mark Pawelek appeared to flash signs of the same dominance that made him worthy of first-round draft status and eventual top prospect honors in the Arizona Rookie League in 2005.        

The left-hander did not allow a hit through 4 2/3 innings and received a no-decision in the Boise Hawks' 4-3 win at Everett in short-season, Class Low A action. He surrendered one hit, a walk, and hit a batter in five innings while striking out a season-high five.

The 19-year-old began the season by taking a loss in each of his first three appearances, allowing seven runs (five earned) in his first eight innings. He proceeded to make his next three appearances from the bullpen before garnering a start against Vancouver last Sunday.

In recent weeks, rumors buzzed that Pawelek had arrived in Spring Training out of shape. Following his first start at Boise on June 19, Hawks manager Steve McFarland was none too pleased with Pawelek's debut, which saw him allow three runs on four hits in four innings. He walked as many batters -- three -- as he struck out.

"He didn't have control or command of any of his pitches," McFarland had said. "His fastball was all over the place. He couldn't repeat his delivery. He couldn't command anything."

The question still begs a response: did the the Cubs' first-round pick from 2005 really report to camp out of shape?

"I guess that's safe to say," Cubs Farm Director Oneri Fleita told Inside The Ivy on Friday. "I hate to blame it on the player because a lot of times, a kid coming into camp for the first time doesn't understand what he's getting himself into."

Over his last two starts, Pawelek has shown improvement. He has allowed one run and three hits in his last nine innings, totaling eight strikeouts to three walks. The southpaw amassed 56 strikeouts in 43 innings last year to garner top prospect honors in the Arizona League by Baseball America. He did not allow an earned run in his final season at Springville (Utah) High School.

"There's no book out there on how to prepare for your first season or Spring Training," Fleita said. "I think sometimes players think the reason they come to Spring Training is to get in shape. That's a misnomer in today's game."

For now, Pawelek remains winless in seven appearances. He has a 3.27 ERA in 22 innings with 18 strikeouts to 12 walks. Opponents are batting .226 off him, and Fleita believes the 20th overall pick will be fine.

As for that other thing ...

"I don't look for him to do that ever again," Fleita said.


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