Muyco Making Smooth Transition

Jake Muyco came to the Chicago Cubs in the eighth round (250th overall) of the 2005 draft from North Carolina State University. He was the first catcher drafted by Chicago that year, but now three seasons later, the 23-year-old Muyco has traded in his catching equipment for a shot on the pitcher's mound.

Muyco was admittedly skeptic when the Cubs first approached him about a possible position switch earlier this year. Catching was his life blood, and he'd served the Cubs amiably behind the plate by fielding his position well and keeping opposing runners in check. In 2006 and 2007, Muyco threw out 50 percent of runners.

But Muyco's bat never quite matched his defensive skills. He struggled to hit above .200 at any level and would bat only .180 in 71 games a season ago.

The Cubs approached Muyco about a change of scenery in spring training this season, but he wanted to give catching – and hitting – another try. When he began the season 4-for-21 with Class AA Tennessee, it was time for a change.

"I was kind of disappointed at first," Muyco said of having to give up catching, "but I'm enjoying it now. It's just one of those deals where things happen for a reason."

Upon agreeing to the move, Muyco arrived in Mesa, Ariz., at the Cubs' extended spring training facilities and went right to work. He got on a throwing program. The next step was developing a repertoire – a tough process on its own.

Muyco features a "straight" four-seam fastball and a sinking two-seamer, a changeup and a slider that he hopes will become his second best pitch behind his fastball.

His fastball has been clocked upper 80s to low 90s.

"I don't know about ‘power arm,' but I could definitely see myself grow and be a low-90s guy that maybe touches the mid-90's one day," said Muyco.

"I think the quicker that I get a feel for those pitches and show some consistency in throwing them all for quality strikes, I'll be able to show them that I have a chance to move up and make some strides," Muyco added.

Muyco has already moved up once. After pitching in four games for short-season Low-A Boise, he was promoted to Class-A Peoria in late June and has to date picked up three wins. Through 13 innings, Muyco has a combined 2.08 ERA.

From the Cubs' perspective, Muyco's move to pitcher has been promising so far.

"He's made the transition smoothly," said Cubs Vice President of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita. "He has a good arm and durable body. It'll be fun to watch his progress."

Muyco says he didn't expect to be promoted so quickly.

"I thought I had a chance to go up later in the season, but they told me I had a chance to move up quickly just because I had a good idea of what I was doing out there and had a feel for all the bunt plays and pitching situations from being a catcher," he said.

Muyco says that pitching to contact and staying out of trouble with walks is the most important part of his game right now. Through his first eight appearances this season, he had struck out 12 batters without allowing a walk.

"As a catcher, I'd seen where pitchers always got hurt with walks," he says. "I'd seen it first-hand and now as a pitcher, I try to stay away from it."

The experience Muyco has at catcher has served him well on the mound, he says.

"I think it's helped me quite a bit, just because when you're behind the plate, you want guys to throw where you think you're going to get hitters out," said Muyco. "When you don't make spots or pitches, you see where they get hurt. As a catcher, you've seen situations. You've seen how hitters want to try to drive guys in or move them over, and everything I'd seen as a catcher definitely helps me out on the mound."

And as a former catcher, Muyco says it is sometimes challenging not to try and call his own game.

"Even when I was catching, I knew I wasn't really calling the game," said Muyco. "I had an idea that the pitcher was going to call his game. As a pitcher, I'll definitely shake guys off."

The most fun part about pitching? Muyco says it's the competition.

"You're out there and it's pretty much, ‘Here's my best stuff. Try to hit it.' It's the competitive edge of it and I really enjoy that," he said.

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