Cubs Find Pitching Help in Indy League

Independent League's are known to house a wide variety of both pitchers and position players. Often those players are purchased by major league organization's such as the Cubs and assigned to various levels of the farm system – either as proverbial roster-filler's, or because an organization believes said player can fill a more long-term role.

The Canadian-American League (more commonly known as the Can-Am League) is no different. And regardless of whatever motivations were involved, the Cubs added two such players from Can-Am League teams to their farm system on July 24: pitchers Isaac Pavlik and Ryan Bicondoa.

Pavlik made his debut for Double-A West Tennessee the following day and has since made three starts, going 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA in 24 innings.

Now 26, Pavlik was a former 10th-round draft pick by Colorado from Seton Hall in 2002. He was released two years later and was bought by San Diego following the season, but never pitched in an actual game for the Padres.

Having spent the past two seasons pitching in Can-Am action for the New Jersey Jackals in Little Falls, N.J., Pavlik was 6-2 with a 2.86 ERA in 72 innings with the team this year before being bought by the Cubs last month.

A season ago, he won seven of 28 games (including 12 starts) and posted a 3.09 ERA, and 100 strikeouts in 102 innings.

Despite the Jaxx leading the league in ERA all season, West Tenn pitching coach Mike Anderson knows there's no such thing as too much pitching.

"He's been outstanding for us," Anderson said of Pavlik. "He does everything that you preach about. He works fast, throws strikes and changes speeds. He has a great feel for pitching and is a great competitor.

"He has a little jump on his fastball and a late-moving slider that he throws in the mid-80s. His fastball is 88 to 90, so far as we've seen," said Anderson.

Meanwhile, in Class-A Daytona, the 27-year-old Bicondoa is experiencing his first taste of affiliated baseball in almost three years.

The right-hander was initially signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2002 by the New York Yankees out of Western Kentucky University. He was traded to the Mets as part of a three-player trio of prospects that netted the Yankees Armando Benitez in 2003.

Following his release from the Mets on April 1 of '04, Bicondoa spent two-plus seasons with the North Shore Spirit in Lynn, Ma., also in the Cam-Am League. He appeared in 40 games with the Spirit in 2004 (all out of the bullpen), but spent the following season as a starter, making 17 appearances and winning nine games with an ERA of 3.56.

In his first four starts with Daytona, Bicondoa had a 1.90 ERA in 23 2/3 innings, notching 31 strikeouts to four walks.

"Obviously, he's more mature than a lot of players in this league," Daytona pitching coach Tom Pratt said. "I think Ryan puts a lot of pressure on himself to make good now that he has another chance in affiliated baseball.

"His changeup is his best pitch. He locates his pitches down in the zone and his fastball has some late sink on it. He's got a really late-breaking slider. He's a battler and a competitor," Pratt said.

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