New Position, New Passion

With his ailing bat failing and the Class-A Peoria Chiefs looking for more production at the hot corner, 24-year-old Brandon Taylor was approached by the Cubs about trying his hand at somewhat of a new position: pitcher. Never one to hold his tongue, last year's 17th-round draft pick from BYU told the organization exactly what he thought of their idea.

The idea of converting solely to pitcher was never one that Taylor, who garnered some innings in his high school days, was overly ready to embrace.

After all, the former Cougar was supposedly approached by several major league organizations about being drafted as a pitcher. His response to each club was always the same.

"I said to heck with them all," says Taylor, who was batting .213 with three home runs and 11 doubles in 53 games for Peoria before leaving the team in late June. "That wasn't my passion. I could have gotten some more money by agreeing to that, but I gave it up to do something I loved at the time. My passion was always playing the infield, and hitting and playing every day."

As such, when the Cubs and Minor League Field Coordinator Dave Bialas first brought up the concept of becoming a full-blown pitcher, Taylor initially maintained the same hesitance as he had in the past.

"Dave had told me that my scout had mentioned I had a good arm," Taylor recalled. "He asked if I had ever thought about pitching and I remember saying, ‘Yes, but not right now. I don't plan on doing that yet.'"

But after soliciting several opinions from both those inside and outside the Cubs' organization, including his agent, Taylor says he wised up and decided to do everything to earn his way to the major leagues as quickly as possible.

"Eventually, I told myself that my ultimate goal was to get to the big leagues any way I could," said Taylor, whose throws from third to first base with Peoria had been clocked at 94 mph. "I decided that I wasn't going to spend eight years in the minor leagues and one day be 32 years old with nothing to show for it."

Since joining the Cubs' rookie team in the Arizona League, Taylor has appeared in two games. He has allowed two hits in three innings to 12 batters and notched a save in his most recent outing against the Mariners a week ago.

The right-hander is still in the early stages of polishing his repertoire, but he's already impressed coaches and the Cubs' Farm Director, Oneri Fleita.

"He pitched two scoreless innings the other day. He's a natural," Fleita said. "You hate to compare to him anybody, but the last time I saw someone throw like this that was converted from the infield was Trevor Hoffman."

Hoffman was drafted in 1989 by the Cincinnati Reds as a shortstop. He converted to pitcher and posted a 1.87 ERA in 27 relief appearances in the Midwest League in 1991. The right-hander entered 2006 with over 400 career saves.

Aside from his low 90's four-seam fastball, Taylor has been working on a breaking ball and sinking fastball.

"I already know what I'm going to throw," he says. "I'm going to feature my normal four-seam fastball and curveball, not a slider, and a changeup. I was pitching my first game and was 90 to 92 with my four-seamer. I just have to get my arm in shape so that by next year, I'll be a little higher on the gun."

Making the change from playing in the field most every night to pitching every few days has been a challenge for the Kennewick, Wash.-born native. As if the south-central Arizona temperatures that often hover around 100 degrees aren't bad enough, Taylor suffers from ADHD.

The condition affects millions of Americans each year, and four years ago, Cubs pitcher Scott Eyre was diagnosed with the disorder while pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays.

For Taylor's part, it's no surprise that having to wait his turn to get into games as opposed to being a regular starter at third base has taken its toll.

"There's a lot of sitting around, so it drives me absolutely nuts," Taylor admits. "That's the only thing I don't like about pitching. But when I'm on the mound, I love it. As an infielder, you'd always be hitting in the cages or taking groundballs. Now, I wake up at 5:20 a.m., stretch and run, and maybe throw bullpen. Then you don't do a damn thing."

But in the grand scheme of things ...

"In the grand scheme of things, it's not all that bad," Taylor says. "Rick Tronerud is the pitching coordinator here and he's been working on a lot of stuff with me. After talking to the Cubs, I hope I'll be out of here soon and shipped off somewhere to pitch."

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