Hope for Blasko

Cubs prospect Chadd Blasko has not thrown a pitch in a minor league game in almost three years, having missed the entire past two seasons due to shoulder problems. Entering Spring Training 2007, the Cubs say the latest news on Blasko is encouraging, but where have we heard this before?

Blasko, who will turn 26 on March 9, last pitched in a minor league game for Double-A West Tennessee on June 27, 2004. Before the 2005 season began, the Cubs were quite aware of the fact that the right-hander and former first-round draft pick would likely not pitch until the following season.

The following spring, Cubs minor league officials remained optimistic that Blasko would return some time in 2006. But the Purdue alumnus suffered what was termed a "setback" related to his shoulder some time last summer and missed the entire season for the second straight year.

Now comes the dawn of another spring, and for the Cubs and Blasko, hope for a new start.

"Chadd had a good winter," an upbeat Oneri Fleita, the Cubs' Farm Director, said when asked about Blasko's health status recently. "He says he's going to be fine coming into Spring Training."

Blasko was one of four first-round picks by the Cubs in 2002 – a rare feet that has been more of a curse than a blessing. The pitcher won 10 games and posted a 1.98 ERA in 24 starts during his first full season with the Cubs in 2003 at Class A Daytona and was named a Florida State League All-Star.

The following year at West Tenn, Blasko was a shell of his 2003 self, lugging a plus-five ERA up until his last outing of the season.

That's been over two and a half years ago and many are starting to get anxious. Fleita says he understands the frustrations associated with Blasko's long road to recovery.

"Sometimes it's hard to be patient," he said.

Patience may be a virtue, but the setbacks and delays Blasko has endured have been as lengthy as most anyones. But so, too, were those of Cubs left-hander Will Ohman at one point. (Ohman also missed two consecutive years due to injury.)

It may sound like a cliché, but the key for players on the rebound is staying positive, Fleita says.

"When you're in my position, that's how you have to keep your mindset: you have to stay positive because the players certainly get negative and frustrated," said Fleita.

"They get to a point where they want to give up," he acknowledged. "But in our position, we have to stay upbeat and let them know not to give up, because we aren't going to give up as long as they don't."

Of the four first-round picks the Cubs had in 2002, right-hander Bobby Brownlie (the first of those picks) had modest success through three years of minor league ball and made his way onto the 40-man roster before a disastrous 2006 season.

Meanwhile, left-hander Luke Hagerty underwent Tommy John Surgery in the spring of 2003 and has never been the same since. At last check, he admitted to having to learn how to "pitch all over again."

The last of those picks, right-hander Matt Clanton, pitched in only two minor league games and was blackballed by the organization after a strenuous relationship with the club.

The Cubs still see hope that someone from that much hyped '02 class of first-rounders will pan out. Time could be running out, however.

"Hopefully we'll turn the corner," Fleita said. "Hopefully, we'll look up and see a Blasko or a Hagerty come out from underneath these injuries."

Northsiders Report Top Stories