Gaub Responding Well to Challenge

Left-hander John Gaub has been consistent from the bullpen early this season for Class AA Tennessee. In nine outings, he has 19 strikeouts to five walks in 10 1/3 innings. Gaub, one of three pitching prospects acquired by the Cubs from the Cleveland Indians in the Mark DeRosa trade over the off-season, has made a big jump this season, going from Low Class-A ball a season ago to Double-A in 2009.

Gaub's fast start has not gone unnoticed by his manager at Tennessee, Ryne Sandberg.

In his most recent outing on Wednesday in a 3-2 victory over West Tennessee, Gaub came on in the eighth inning and faced three batters in two-thirds of an inning. He recorded two strikeouts to preserve a 2-2 tie and the Smokies took the lead for good a half-inning later to give Gaub his first win as a Cubs prospect.

"He has been pretty tough out of the ‘pen, especially against left-handed hitters," Sandberg said of Gaub. "(On Wednesday), he came in there in a tight situation and got a couple of hitters."

Through the first month-plus of the season, Gaub has a 1.74 ERA with six hits allowed for a .167 average against. He spent 2008 at Class-A Lake County of the South Atlantic League, appearing in 34 games and going 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 64 innings. He struck out 100 batters and walked 32.

The Cubs challenged Gaub this spring by skipping him past Class High-A Daytona en route to Tennessee, and the southpaw has proven up to the task thus far.

"It's still early, but I've been doing pretty well," Gaub agreed. "I haven't been really letting the whole Double-A thing get to my head. I know it was a big jump going straight from Low-A into Double-A, but I just knew that if I went out and made my pitches, things were going to be fine, and so far things have been good."

Gaub has been used primarily in seventh and eighth-inning situations with the Smokies, a role in which he has earned Sandberg's trust by combining for one run allowed and 12 strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

Moreover, his mechanics have been in sync this season after Gaub worked on his delivery and on keeping his weight back in spring training.

"My mechanics have been consistent. I've got five walks in 10 innings, which isn't terrible, but not good, either. Other than that, I've been throwing strikes. For the most part, I've been going after guys. My mechanics have been good and I haven't had a problem throwing strikes consistently," Gaub said.

A season ago, Gaub averaged 14 strikeouts per nine innings. He said he's not necessarily looking to strike players out and doesn't think of himself as a strikeout artist.

"Once you get two strikes on a guy, it's always fun to go after him, but it depends on the situation," he said. "Sometimes with a guy at first base and one out, you try to get a groundball. But the thing is, you can't go out there trying to strike guys out because you can't get a strikeout until you've got two strikes.

"So it's just about being consistent, throwing two or three pitches for strikes and being able to command those pitches out of the zone, too, which I've been successful with getting guys to chase my slider in the dirt."

Gaub's slider is a big part of his repertoire and he's been able to keep it down in the zone this season. He also has an effective changeup to complement his fastball, and he's been showing that to right-handed batters.

"Facing right-handers, they're going to see a lot more fastballs than lefties and if I can show that changeup once or twice a game just to let them know that I've got it, it makes my fastball a little bit better," said Gaub.

Originally a 21st-round Indians selection in the 2006 draft from Minnesota, Gaub has overcome a series of arm and shoulder injuries from his college days en route to being one of the Smokies' most trusted relievers.

His velocity this season has been consistently 91 to 92 mph, and Gaub says he's happy with that reading.

"It's been consistent and it's been the same every outing," Gaub said. "I don't feel I need to throw any harder than 91 or 92; that's a good velocity and you get plenty of swings and misses with that. It's probably not quite where it once was, but considering the injuries I've had, it's good to have that back at least."

On that note, Gaub says his arm has felt great and there's been no pain at all.

"My arm feels good. Knock on wood, but it hasn't been a problem whatsoever," he said. "It feels just like it did four years ago."

Because of his arm history, the Cubs consider Gaub a true bullpen prospect, and Gaub says there is probably little chance of him eventually becoming a starter. Not that he'll need to at this rate, but with the kind of outings he's had thus far, it makes one wonder how much longer he'll be at Double-A if he keeps this up.

Gaub said he's not thinking ahead to a promotion, though.

"It's a long season and we've only been playing a month," he said. "I've been doing pretty well, but two bad outings can make my season -- you can't really think about it. It's not in my control where I go. As for right now, I'm here and don't plan on going anywhere any time soon."

InsideTheIvy.com correspondent Josh Dorsey in Sevierville contributed to this report.

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