Ceda to Resume Starting

Jose Ceda, the Cubs' 6-foot-4, 275-pound giant of a pitching prospect, is headed back into the starting rotation after spending a good portion of his 2007 season in relief.

Ceda appeared in both the starting rotation and bullpen a season ago with Class-A Peoria of the Midwest League. He began the year in the rotation, making six starts before he was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder-related injury.

Upon his return, Ceda appeared exclusively in relief, tossing 23 1/3 hitless innings. Of the 87 batters he faced during the streak, he struck out 42.

For the time being, Chicago plans to return Ceda to the rotation, Cubs Vice President of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita said. Ceda will begin 2008 at Class-A Daytona in the Florida State League, where he was assigned over the past weekend.

"We're going to try and monitor his pitch count all year, but we need him in a position to where he can develop a second or third pitch," Fleita said.

Ceda is a hard-throwing right-hander whose fastball has topped out at 99 mph. He also features a plus slider and a below-average changeup.

The Cubs have compared Ceda to former big league reliever Lee Smith from the moment he arrived via trade from San Diego in July, 2006.

Late last season, Chicago promoted Ceda to Class AA Tennessee in time for the Southern League playoffs. He made one appearance in the post-season with the Smokies, tossing one inning and allowing one hit to four batters faced.

Had the Cubs elected to keep Ceda in the bullpen to begin 2008, he likely would have begun the year back at Tennessee. With the organization choosing to return him to the rotation, though, Daytona was a more ideal fit.

Should Ceda struggle and prove he's not cut out to be a starter, the Cubs know he can fall back on the bullpen.

"Who knows, we're not that smart," Fleita said. "Maybe he'll be a 200-plus inning guy, but if not, he'll end up being a Lee Smith."

For now, the Cubs want Ceda to display more pitchability.

"At this point in his career, we think that's more important," Fleita said. "After that, his career should just take off."

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