Prior to signing a minor league contract with the Cubs this past April, Ligtenberg was attempting a comeback with the Florida Marlins in Spring Training. He appeared in nine games in the Grapefruit League, posting a 2.53 ERA in 10 2/3 innings, but was released.
Ligtenberg felt the Marlins simply had more of an influx in younger arms and that his best shot was to catch on with a team that might have a better shot at reaching the post-season in 2006.
Since signing a minor league contract with the Cubs, the right-hander has gone 4-4 with 14 saves and a 3.79 ERA in 49 appearances for Triple-A Iowa after a promising start with the team, in which he allowed two earned runs despite 20 hits in his first 17 1/3 innings.
Ligtenberg was named to the 2006 Triple-A All-Star team in Toledo, Ohio, this past month, but did not participate due to a prior commitment.
We visited with Ligtenberg recently and asked what his future holds in store.
Q: Since joining the I-Cubs, you've totaled over 54 innings. How would put into words the year you've had?
A: This spring with the Marlins, I think I pitched pretty well. In the end, it came down to the fact that they had some good young arms. I threw well enough where I could have made the team out of Spring Training. I went home for about three weeks and the Cubs called. It was close to home for me. Being near Minneapolis, it's a three-hour drive to Des Moines. I came down to Iowa and for the most part, I haven't been throwing too bad. My hip and knee have been healthy this year and I have worked on a few things. I've changed the grip on my slider, which has been coming along well. I feel like I can pitch, it's just a matter of getting into the right situation.
Q: What can you tell us about the injuries you've dealt with?
A: In 2004, I had a bad hip. I don't even know what the injury was officially called. I had surgery on my left knee. I'm as close to healthy as I can be, but I'm still 35. Some days I feel old and some days I don't. For the most part, my arm has been healthy and I've been throwing 88 to 91.
Q: With the spring you had with the Marlins, are you surprised not to have been given an audition with the Cubs' big league club?
A: I've been realistic and you have to understand how the game works. I think the fact that they're 20 games out of first or whatever, they're looking more toward next year, so they're giving their young guys a look. I think right now, they're just trying to get the young men up to see what they can do going into next year. I think maybe it would have been different if they were in the playoff race. Next year, I'll have to make a decision whether I want to play some more.
Q: How much thought have you put into that decision?
A: It's still up to me. I enjoy pitching and also the fact that I was somewhat close to home this year with my family. I still feel like I can pitch up there, I just don't know if I would go and play in Triple-A again. I've been trying to make the [major league] team and want to get myself up in big league camp next season.
Q: If you fall short of that goal, what are your plans for life after baseball?
A: I'd still like to go pitch every day, but if not, I'd like to spend some time with my family. I have a degree, but would like to go back to school. It's been years since I've been in school. I'd like to look into some options there.
Q: Who of the young guys on the staff have impressed you the most?
A: I think Rich Hill, when he was here, pretty much dominated at this level. Angel Guzman has good stuff I think. They have some guys with good arms. Jae-Kuk Ryu has a pretty good idea of how to pitch and he's pitched OK. It's just a matter of going up there and getting it done.