Renshaw Fueled by Late Arrival

Cubs pitching prospect Jake Renshaw was a little late to the party at Class A Peoria this season, having spent two weeks in Extended Spring Training in Arizona back in the first part of April. When the Cubs informed Renshaw of their initial plan to have him return to short-season ball, it was met with some skepticism.

Renshaw was originally slated to stay in Extended Spring Training until mid-June and then return to Class Low A Boise of the Northwest League, where he logged 23 1/3 innings a season ago and posted a 4.24 ERA in five starts.

The right-hander got the break he was looking for when Mark Pawelek was sent to Extended after only two relief appearances with Peoria.

Since joining the Midwest League club in late April, Renshaw has posted a Cubs minor league leading 12 victories and is on pace to become the third straight Peoria pitcher to lead the farm system in wins. Mitch Atkins did so in 2006, and Sean Gallagher preceded him in 2005.

Not being placed on the Peoria roster right away lit quite a fire under Renshaw, and the 21-year-old has thrived on that flame ever since.

"When I got here, I was hungry and wanted to prove to them that I should have been here all along," says Renshaw, a 10th-round Cubs draft pick in 2006. "Then I wanted to keep competing so that I could stay here.

"When you have 20 or 30 guys above you fighting for the same spot that you are, just being told no at first and then having to fight my way up here, it's something where I've never really had to earn a spot in the starting rotation. I felt like that was a big motivating factor for me."

The Cubs understood Renshaw's dilemma, but were only interested in the Ventura, Calif., native making a start once every five days somewhere.

"The whole thinking behind him not going up there in the first place was we wanted him to pitch every fifth day," Cubs Farm Director Oneri Fleita said. "Coming out of Spring Training, we really didn't have a spot for him. That's what you have to do; you go and pitch every fifth day wherever they ask you to pitch. And in due time, these things usually take care of themselves."

Such has been the case for Renshaw thus far.

Since making the trek to full-season ball, the Ventura College alum has adapted quite well, and the fire that was lit back in April hasn't dwindled to ashes. If anything, Renshaw has only improved as the season has worn on.

This season, he is 12-7 with a 4.09 ERA in 21 starts, logging 110 innings. Over his last 10 starts, Renshaw has won seven games while posting a 3.04 ERA. He has averaged five-plus innings per start with Peoria.

"When I got here, my first couple of outings was (me) just kind of testing the waters," Renshaw said. "It's a little different level than Boise was. I got some innings under my belt and tried to build on those innings. I've continued to work hard and it's paying off."

Renshaw listed some of the things he's been able to fine-tune this season.

"My changeup is really still coming around and that's not a pitch I really featured in college," he said. "Keeping hitters off-balance has been a key for me. I've added a couple of miles to my fastball, and commanding my fastball has been one of the biggest keys for me. Sometimes it's not so great, and when I'm not commanding it, I've been getting hit around.

"The command of it has really helped me set up my other pitches."

Renshaw also features a slider in his repertoire. He featured a splitfinger throughout college, but the pitch was shelved after he joined the Cubs.

"Shooting fastball, slider and changeup, for the most part, it's worked out," Renshaw said. "The slider has changed a little bit. In college, it was more of a slurve-type pitch. Now I'm just trying to shorten it up and throw it a little harder. It's been a great pitch for me."

Renshaw may not have started the year off where he wanted to, but he should end it there if nothing else. And his trek to Peoria this season is somewhat similar to that of Gallagher's two years ago.

Gallagher, age 19 at the time and less than a year removed from the draft, was originally slated to begin 2005 in Extended Spring Training. But much like Renshaw, an injury or two opened up a spot for him in Peoria.

"I'd love to follow in Sean's footsteps obviously. He's in Wrigley today," Renshaw said.

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