Caridad Anything But Typical

There are over 50 pitchers of Latin American descent that are listed in the minor league registry of the Cubs 2008 media guide. Of them, nearly all were signed as teenagers from their native homelands. One exception was a 22-year-old right-hander whom the Cubs signed on the spot this past December in the Dominican Republic.

His name is Esmailin Caridad, and he is rather easy to spot: just look for the pitcher with the blue glove. The Cubs believed in the power of that blue glove and wasted little time in signing Caridad as a free agent this past off-season.

"Jim Hendry was down there with Oneri Fleita and saw him at a workout," recalled Cubs Assistant General Manager Randy Bush. "They signed him on the spot."

The Cubs first spotted Caridad last year while he was pitching for the Dominican Academy of the Japanese Central League's Hiroshima Carp. He spent most of 2007 with the club, appearing in 25 games and finishing with a 4.02 ERA.

After signing him, the Cubs invited Caridad to big league camp to get him some experience in a major league setting. He made one Cactus League appearance and was returned to minor league camp in the first wave of spring roster cuts.

Since making his U.S. debut with Class High-A Daytona in April, Caridad has gone 3-2 with a 5.17 ERA through seven games, including six starts. In 30-plus innings with the team, he has struck out 13 batters and walked 10.

Caridad made his longest start of the season (6 2/3 innings) in his most recent outing on Monday at Fort Myers, giving up just one run in one of his better performances to date.

With Daytona, Caridad has showcased a fastball in the low 90s along with a plus-slider and a lesser used changeup, said one Florida State League scout.

"He's got a good fastball and good control, but sometimes he just kind of floats his stuff," the scout said of Caridad. "When he gets off, his pitches are up. That's why he hasn't been able to go very deep in a lot of games. He doesn't walk a lot of guys, but he does give up some easy base hits."

The Cubs believe that Caridad can advance quickly through the system because of his age and past experience pitching in the Dominican.

"He's not a typical 16- or 17-year-old that you sign out of there," said Bush. "He's 22 and he's got a good arm and a good breaking ball. We think he'll move fast."

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