Huseby Having Bounce-back Season

PEORIA -- Resilient is one word to label Chris Huseby's young career. Consistent is quickly becoming another word.

"I've been very pleased with him, and his confidence gets better each time out," Peoria Chiefs pitching coach Rich Bombard said of Huseby. "He has been one of our most consistent relievers, if not the most consistent."

Bombard's assessment of Huseby this season is a far cry from where he was last season. Pitching in the Arizona Rookie League (the lowest level of the Cubs' system by classification), Huseby appeared in nine games, making seven starts and struggling with his command. He allowed 12 earned runs and 17 walks in only 15 innings of work. He finished the short season with a 1-1 record and a 7.20 ERA.

But Huseby did not let those numbers discourage him and continued to work hard in the off-season.

"He has progressed better than anybody expected. Not to downplay him, but he came back strong in the spring and had a real good spring," said Bombard. "It's one of those cases where it has continued on into the season. He's throwing strikes and been aggressive and is throwing both breaking pitches for strikes.

"He's done the job every time out and I can't remember a bad outing. He never beats himself. He doesn't walk guys or get himself in trouble."

A few minor changes in Huseby's mechanics have made significant strides in his performance. The 21-year-old reliever has appeared in 15 games, pitching 23.1 innings and holding his ERA to 2.31. Huseby has only allowed six earned runs, and equally as important has limited batters to only two walks while striking out 33.

"Since I was drafted, I've struggled with my command and was not able to find the strike zone. That was one of my main focuses in the off-season," Huseby said.

"Usually I was a (low) three-quarters kind of (pitcher) and this off-season [converting to an over-the-top delivery was] a way for me to get my command better and be consistent with my delivery. Instead of me being here or here, I've found it a lot easier to throw with a downhill angle. I think my height helps, too."

The 6-foot-7, 220 pound right-hander from Martin County (Fla.) High School already has quite the storied past. Originally offered a scholarship from Auburn University, Huseby turned down the chance to play college ball in the SEC after he was drafted in the 11th round of the 2006 draft.

He had already undergone Tommy John surgery after throwing his elbow out his junior year of high school and was unsure if he would be drafted. Huseby was drafted, by the Cubs, and made noise by inking a record $1.3 million signing bonus, the highest ever for an 11th round pick.

In 2006, Huseby also had the opportunity to represent his country by playing for the United States National Team.

"It was a great experience. I got to see players from all over the country. Getting a chance to represent your country at a young age is a thrill," Huseby said.

Huseby has also shown he can be a versatile pitcher and accepts any pitching role given to him. Chiefs manager Marty Pevey says he is not afraid to put Huseby into the game in any situation.

"He's a go-to guy," Pevey said. "He can work long, he can start, and for us he has even closed."

Huseby has collected three saves so far this season, but is also open to returning to the starting rotation one day. He keeps an open mind and will pitch in any capacity needed. For Huseby, he just wants to aid his team in winning.

"I've always been a starter and I had a good year in Boise (in 2007) and then this year being in the bullpen I'm having a good year," Huseby said.

"Whatever helps me move up the ladder quicker, I'm fine with. I can do either role as long as it helps the team win."

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