Acosta Readies for Relief

Ryan Acosta says he expects to see some work in relief – at least for the time being. The 19-year-old Cubs pitching prospect, a 12th-round pick in the 2007 draft, was assigned to Class-A Peoria for the start of full-season minor league ball earlier this week. Acosta made his professional debut last season, appearing in six games between Class Low-A Boise and the Arizona Rookie League.

Is the plan for you to start in Peoria?

Ryan Acosta: They've got me in a long rotation. What they told me was that I'd be a 'sixth starter.' The pitching coordinator (Mark Riggins) talked to me and said they planned on me being a reliever some time soon.

Did that come as a surprise to you?

Ryan Acosta: It did, because I had come in being a starter the whole time. When they told me (otherwise), I said OK. I went to the pitching coordinator and asked him what was going on. He told me I'd be in long relief and that if a starter had a bad outing, I'd be there. I told him that would be fine. We'll see how it goes and what turns out.

Relieving would be a new role for you, yes?

Ryan Acosta: I've never been in relief so it's going to be something new. It was a surprise to me, but I trust them and they know what's right. I'll go along with it and see if the best turns out.

Throughout most of camp, were you starting or relieving? How recent is the decision to give you some work as a reliever?

Ryan Acosta: I wasn't really in a relief position because I would go out and throw three innings and pitch like a starter every fifth day. Finally, I asked the pitching coordinator, "Where do I stand?" He told me, "We have in mind that you're going to be a starter. You're going to get there, don't worry about it." I told him that I would do the best I can wherever I'm at.

Just to clarify: the plan is still for you to become a starter in the long-run?

Ryan Acosta: That's right.

What's been your main focus this spring?

Ryan Acosta: Just confidence, being aggressive, throwing strikes, and coming out and showing them that I wanted to be here; that I enjoy playing the game and that when I come to spring training, I want to move up a level and not be complacent with where they put me. I didn't give up a run or a hit the entire spring training.

Are you still throwing your split-finger pitch?

Ryan Acosta: No, they cut out the split-finger. I'm just throwing fastball, slider, curveball and changeup now. Once I get older, they want me to bring back the split-finger.

Between your slider and curveball, do you tend to favor one over the other?

Ryan Acosta: I don't favor one over the other at all. I've messed around with both long enough that I pretty much have the confidence and mindset to throw both of them. I know how to throw them the right way and I throw them completely different ways, and they work in different ways.

Overall, how excited are you to be in full-season ball already?

Ryan Acosta: I'm really excited. I love all the guys on my team and my teammates are great. I'm just happy to be here and to do whatever I can to help the team. We have a great staff. Ryne Sandberg, a Hall of Famer of course, is our manager and (pitching coach) Rich Bombard is always looking for the best from the pitchers. (Hitting coach) Desi Wilson is always there just to say hello. We have a great staff and a great team.

Last year, you were listed as 6-foot-2, 170 pounds. Have you bulked up any since?

Ryan Acosta: I have. I've gained about 15 pounds and two inches ... to around 6'3, 185. I worked on a cattle ranch this off-season. We did a lot of loading hay every day. It was a lot of lifting and carrying, but of course there was the good beef that we got to eat. We grow and eat our own beef. We got up real early every day and worked all day.

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