Cubs Have Plan for Ceda

Jose Ceda has been called the best arm in the Cubs' farm system. Numbers-wise, he has had a rough go of things in the starting rotation at Class-A Daytona this season, but the Cubs aren't worried because his starts are part of a bigger plan.

Ceda, 21, made his seventh start of the season for Daytona on Tuesday, and it was perhaps his best outing to date in 2008. The hard-throwing right-hander logged six innings and surrendered one run and two hits in a no-decision at Fort Myers.

He struck out five batters, walked two, and hit a batter.

While Ceda has pitched from the rotation this season, the Cubs don't see him as a starter long-term, said Cubs Assistant General Manager Randy Bush.

"I think his future is in the bullpen," Bush said.

So why has Ceda been starting games this season?

"We're starting him, just so that he has to throw pitches," said Bush. "He has (about) a 75-pitch limit right now, but having him in the rotation allows him to throw all of his pitches and not just rely on his fastball to come in and blow hitters away."

Transforming Ceda into more of an all-around pitcher rather than just a hard-thrower is the idea, after all. Ceda, who can top 98 mph with his fastball, is currently working on developing a secondary pitch – ideally a serviceable changeup.

"We know he's got that (fastball) pitch," said Bush. "But he's got to work on his secondary pitches, which he's doing as a starter. I think everybody agrees that probably down the line, his best role is going to be out of the bullpen."

"I love what we're doing with him right now," Bush added.

Chicago plucked Ceda from San Diego at the trade deadline in 2006 for INF Todd Walker. The Cubs are in agreement that Ceda is the best arm in the system.

"When we talk about domination, the guy with the best arm is Ceda," said Gary Hughes, a Cubs Special Assistant to the General Manager.

"He has the best arm probably in the system," Cubs Minor League Field Coordinator Dave Bialas said. "He has a tremendous arm and is still learning how to pitch."

With regards to how long that process takes, Bialas said it depends on the individual. But, he said, "You're looking at a good three years."

He added: "When you get to the higher levels, you learn that you're not going to throw the ball by them. You're going to have to pitch and get your off-speed pitches over."

Ceda began last year in the starting rotation at Class-A Peoria, making six starts before going on the disabled list. He returned later in the year and pitched exclusively in the bullpen, where he did not allow a hit in 23 1/3 innings as a reliever.

Earlier this year, Ceda received his first career invitation to big league spring training. He appeared in only three Cactus League games, allowing four runs in two innings before being returned to minor league camp as part of the first wave of roster cuts.

Ceda is listed in most media guides as 6-foot-4, 275 pounds. He'll have to watch his weight, but Bialas said that Ceda has recently shed several pounds.

"He came to spring training in good shape and has probably lost 30 pounds."

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