Back to Iowa

As he reported to Cubs camp in Mesa late last month, it would have seemed upon first glance as though Felix Pie was the consensus favorite amongst all of the organization's top prospects in Big League Spring Training to land a spot on the club's Opening Day roster.

By the time Pie was optioned to minor league camp on Monday, though, the decision to send the Cubs' top prospect back for presumably the start of another season in the minor leagues at Triple-A Iowa seemed to be a foregone conclusion in spite of his best efforts this spring.

Pie was one of four players optioned to minor league camp on Monday, joining the Cubs three remaining non-roster invites on the active spring roster: catcher Koyie Hill, INF Tomas Perez and LHP Les Walrond.

After batting .283 with career highs in home runs (15), RBIs (57) and walks (46) a year ago in his first Triple-A campaign, Pie spent time this past off-season making stops in Arizona at the Cubs' annual fall Instructional League Camp and later the Dominican Winter League.

In Instructs, he received a two-week primer on baserunning from Cubs first-year Baserunning/Outfield Coordinator Bob Dernier, who worked with Pie on getting into a better stance in an attempt to steal more bases.

Specifically, Dernier wanted the 6-foot-2 Pie to stand upright in his natural position and get a more downhill jump off first.

"Because he was so bent over at the waste, his first move would be up," Dernier explained. "If you're going to steal second and your first move is up, that half a second or fractions of seconds you take away from yourself is the difference between safe and out at second base."

Alhough he attempted only four stolen bases in camp this spring, Pie stole three of them.

He also drew some light work in the hitting department in Instructs last fall.

"He worked on a few things with his swing," Cubs Farm Director Oneri Fleita confirmed without going into specifics. "We talked about situational hitting and educating him on understanding what the opposition is trying to do to him. It won't be long until some of that becomes second nature to him."

If this spring is any indication, it may not be long at all.

Pie batted .352 (19-for-54) with a .397 on-base percentage in 22 games this spring. Those were better numbers than most all of the Cubs' heavy hitters with the exception of Derrek Lee (.490 average, .509 OBP in 16 games).

With Monday's cuts, the Cubs' spring roster now stands at 31 players. The breakdown consists of 17 pitchers, two catchers and 14 position players.

The Cubs season opener is Monday, April 2, when the club travels to Cincinnati to face the Reds at Great American Ballpark beginning at 1:10 p.m. (CDT). Television coverage will be provided by WGN as well as ESPN2.

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