Stevens May Not Be Far Away

DES MOINES -- When Cubs pitching prospect Jeff Stevens takes the mound in relief, he doesn't mess around. He has posted 11 scoreless innings with just three hits allowed to prove it.

Stevens spent 2008 with the Akron Aeros of the Double-A Eastern League and then the Buffalo Bisons of the Triple-A International League. He combined for six saves and a 3.24 ERA in 58 1/3 innings. He came to the Cubs as one of three prospects from the Cleveland Indians in the trade for second baseman Mark DeRosa.

In nine appearances this season, Stevens has yet to give up an earned run in 11 innings of work and according to him, relieving is right where he wants to be.

"I definitely like the role of being a reliever," Stevens said. "I was a starter in college and started my first two years of professional ball and then moved to the bullpen. It's fun being involved in every game because when you're a starter, you throw once a night and then you're off for four nights; whereas if you're in the bullpen, you can get into the game every night."

Iowa pitching coach Mike Mason is not surprised with how well Stevens has been throwing this season. Mason said Stevens is throwing as well as he did last year and he's a prime example as to why teams make trades.

"He's pitched Double-A and Triple-A before," Mason said. "And he had good numbers. This is just an extension. We like his stuff."

Stevens throws a four-seam fastball, a curveball, and has been working on a cutter. His impressive numbers make him a great option in the late innings of games.

"With a guy like Jeff, we try and hold off until we're winning," Mason said. "It's one of those things where his role here is similar to what it is going to be in the big leagues – a ninth-inning option for a save. He's a guy that's going to come in at the end of the game when we're ahead."

Stevens attributes his success thus far to having command of his fastball.

"I've walked a little more guys than I would have liked to," said Stevens, who has seven walks (one intentional) and 12 strikeouts. "So I think commanding a fastball lets everything fall into place. Being able to command my fastball has been the key to my success ever since I was pitching in little league."

Stevens has also benefited from the opportunity to spend the spring at big league camp.

"It was really exciting and a little intimidating," Stevens said. "Coming over from a new team, I didn't know anybody except Brad Snyder, who was with Cleveland with me. All the veterans there are really nice and very helpful to the younger guys. It was definitely helpful having those guys there and asking them about hitters and their approach to pitching."

The competition at that level and the major league environment prepared Stevens for this season. But he's only worrying about the task at hand rather than the speculation of possibly moving up to Chicago.

"My approach has always been to not pay too much attention on what is going on above you," Stevens said. "Even in Low-A and High-A, you try not to focus on things on top of you, otherwise it's really easy to get distracted."

If Stevens stays on track and remains successful with Iowa, Mason said he could see him moving up.

"At some point [I see him moving up]," Mason said. "Knowing how the Cubs kind of work, if a guy is doing well and they need a guy up there, then absolutely I think at some point this year he'll be pitching in the big leagues."

But Stevens is taking it one step at a time.

"The approach I've taken is to focus on my game that night," Stevens said. "Just go out and pitch where I am and hopefully everything falls into place."

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