Petrick talks Bullpen

Like a lot of Cubs pitching prospects following major arm surgery, Billy Petrick is preparing for life in the bullpen this coming season.

Petrick underwent shoulder surgery in the summer of 2005 to repair a torn labrum and battled back to make 10 starts a season ago between Class Low A Boise and High A Daytona. In seven starts in the Northwest League at Boise, he went 5-0 with a 2.23 ERA while logging 36 1/3 innings.

At one point ranked as the fifth best prospect in the Cubs' farm system by Baseball America (2005), Petrick has started 63 of his 65 career games in the minor leagues in his career.

All of that is about to change, he says.

The right-hander and third-round pick from the 2002 draft out of Morris (Ill.) High School, who was recruited as a long snapper by ex-Washington State head football coach Mike Price, confirmed Wednesday that he'd been getting his work in from the bullpen this spring.

"It's been a good transition so far," Petrick said from Cubs Minor League Spring Training in Arizona. "I'd never known the relief spot until now."

Most importantly, Petrick reports to being pain-free this spring after spending the first two-plus months of last year in Extended Spring Training while rehabbing his shoulder. After making three starts at Daytona late last season, he was shut down due to precautionary reasons.

"The arm's been feeling really good," Petrick said. "I've been able to come back throwing hard, as hard as I usually would. I'm not as sore the next day as I would be starting, that's for sure.

"I've just been going out for one or two innings, throwing the ball hard and getting outs," he added.

Such was the case in Petrick's most recent outing in minor league camp. He closed Wednesday's game against the San Francisco Giants' Class High-A squad by retiring the side in order. Petrick threw only nine pitches and induced three groundball outs. The Cubs won the game, 5-1.

Petrick's move to the bullpen came about only recently in Spring Training.

"I didn't really know about it (the move) until my innings started to stay the same each time out," Petrick said. "They never went up to four or five innings like in past years. I asked one of our coaches and he told me that this was the role they wanted me to take this year. I agreed to it."

With Petrick moving to the bullpen, he feels slightly less pressure with pitch selection. He features a power fastball, a hard slider and a changeup in his repertoire, but admits to putting one of those pitches on the backburner this spring.

"I haven't found myself throwing a lot of changeups, just the fastball and slider," he said. "If I go into long-relief situations, I'll obviously use it again."

Petrick also hasn't talked to anyone with a radar gun in hand this spring, but he says his fastball feels as live as ever.

Last summer in Boise, he topped out at 94 mph.

"From the reaction I've gotten from coaches, I'd say my fastball is coming out of my hand really good and hard," Petrick said. "As long as it feels good and I'm getting outs, it's around where it should be."

Petrick had spent most of his time in minor league camp working with the Cubs' Double-A squad, but was transferred to the High-A roster this past week. He expects to begin the season next week in Daytona.

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