Roquet Ready To Dominate

Cubs pitching prospect Rocky Roquet can throw hard – really hard, in fact. His exact velocity occasionally varies from night to night, but with an effective fastball-slider combination last season in the Northwest League, Roquet fanned 31 and walked only five in 19 2/3 innings.

The only thing missing from Roquet's stint at Class Low-A Boise a season ago was a lower ERA. The right-hander finished with a 5.49 clip that is ever untelling of his true potential given how small a sample size he received.

Along with third baseman Josh Lansford and catcher Matt Canepa, Roquet was one of three players to join the Cubs from California Polytechnic University (Cal-Poly) last season. He was signed as a non-drafted fifth-year senior and appeared in 19 games for the Hawks, finishing 16 of those contests and notching three saves.

In his final year of college ball with the Mustangs, Roquet racked up 10 saves and boasted a 2.36 ERA. He appeared in 24 games and averaged more than one strikeout per inning with 41 K's in 34 1/3 innings pitched.

Roquet was the Mustangs' go-to guy in the ninth inning and Canepa, his teammate at both Cal-Poly and Boise, describes him as "fearless."

"He's the type of guy that's going to come after you," said Canepa, the Cubs' 15th-round pick a year ago. "He's the type of guy that you definitely want on the mound in the ninth inning. He's got it together and he's composed. He's got one heck of a fastball and isn't afraid to use it."

Just how fast is Roquet's fastball? That all depends on the time and place.

Last season at Boise, Roquet topped out at 97 mph and was consistently in the 92-94 range. Two years ago as a junior in college, he was 88-92.

With the Hawks, Roquet worked primarily with a fastball-slider combination, but he had toiled with a changeup all throughout college. Beginning with his work in the Cubs' annual Instructional League camp in Arizona last fall, he began to shift his efforts toward the development of the off-speed pitch.

This spring, Roquet now finds himself focusing on all three of his pitches. In addition to the work on his changeup, he wants to keep his fastball down in the zone and is striving to add depth to his slider for better movement.

Moreover, Roquet is still getting accustomed to pitching from the windup. Up until Instructs last year, he worked solely from the stretch.

"It's a little different mechanics-wise, making sure that your back leg is inside yourself and that you're not opening up too quickly," Roquet explained. "Mechanically, producing the same windup every time is a big thing for me. If it's not the same, the pitches are going to be different."

Roquet enters 2007 ranked as the Cubs' 26th best prospect by Baseball America, but he hasn't always been on the mound. Roquet started his college career at Florida State as an outfielder, then made stops at two junior colleges before eventually moving on to Cal-Poly.

In an effort to ease the transition from college to pro ball, the Cubs decided to leave Roquet in late-inning, save-type situations a year ago. He tossed more than one inning only twice and was used exclusively in the eighth and ninth innings.

But in light of moving into the windup and the continued development of a third pitch, Roquet says he expects to increase his work load in 2007.

Considering that he is already 24 and thus exceeded the average age of Northwest League players a year ago, there could exist some added pressure on the California native to develop quicker than most players who made their professional debuts with the Cubs last season.

Roquet is fine with that and takes it in stride.

"I don't really dwell on it much, because my arm is young and I've never had any arm problems," he said. "I've only been pitching for three or four years and the Cubs know that. Each day, I'm getting better. I'm just glad I got the opportunity as a fifth-year senior to come out and prove myself."

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