Maestri Looking to Return Strong in '09

Chicago Cubs pitching prospect Alex Maestri was cruising along nicely this past summer before arm problems forced him to miss the remainder of the season starting in early July.

Maestri began the season at Class Advanced-A Daytona and was 5-3 with a 3.69 ERA, making 14 starts. He was promoted to Class AA Tennessee and made two starts before his season ended. After spending the off-season in his native Italy, where he was signed by the Cubs in 2006, Maestri hopes to return strong in 2009. spoke to the right-hander recently.

After you received the call-up to Double-A Tennessee, you made only a couple of appearances. What was the reason for that and how is your arm feeling now?

ALEX MAESTRI: Unfortunately I had a problem with my arm. In fact it was bothering me the whole time I was there. I tried to fight through for a little bit, but then my last game it was getting worse so I had to (step back). My arm now is fine; it's getting stronger and stronger. I'm working real hard for this. This has been my first injury and I don't want that to happen again. It hasn't been fun not to be able to play and to watch your teammates from the bench.

This was really the first year you'd garnered a lot of action in the starting rotation. Did you enjoy starting and did it differ that much from the bullpen?

ALEX MAESTRI: I really enjoyed it. I think I learned a lot of stuff that I probably wouldn't if I'd kept relieving like my first two years. I still feel like I'm a better reliever than a starter, but I'm happy to be able to do both roles.

After spending most of the year in a starter's role, do you expect to continue starting next year or go back to the bullpen?

ALEX MAESTRI: Well I'm working out trying to get in shape to be a starter right now, just in case I'm going to do that again. There is always time to go back in the bullpen. I'll do what the organization thinks is best for me. Whatever it is, I'm going to put everything I got into it.

How has the development of your slider and changeup progressed, and did you work on any other pitches this past season?

ALEX MAESTRI: My slider has been good, while I kind of lost the control of my changeup during the season. When that happened, I started to mix in a splitter that I used back in Italy when I was playing here. Now I'm working a lot on my changeup. I gotta get that.

Did your velocity creep back up eventually this past season after it was down a bit in spring training?

ALEX MAESTRI: Yeah, it did. I guess my arm had to get used to the starting position.

What are your off-season plans and when do you expect to return to the States?

ALEX MAESTRI: My off-season plans are getting that changeup a pitch that I can trust and work on getting stronger, especially with my arm. I don't want to have any physical problems anymore. I'll be back in the States for the spring. I usually get there 10 days before Spring Training just to get used to the time and weather.

How do you stay in shape in your homeland in the offseason? Are there many baseball fields and what not in your area?

ALEX MAESTRI: I work out at the Italian Baseball Academy we have here. It's located three hours driving distance from my house. I stay there all week from Monday to Friday and I work out twice a day. I always come back home for the weekends to spend time with family and friends. There are fields close to my house too, but (the academy) is the best place to do things the right way.

Northsiders Report Top Stories