Cubs prospect Beeler well-versed in humility

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Cubs prospect Beeler well-versed in humility

"I've never been good at much besides throwing a baseball," Cubs prospect Dallas Beeler said last Saturday at the 2013 Cubs Convention.

If that sounds overly humble, especially at a panel put together to celebrate Cubs prospects, its because Beeler has been humbled. He tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow when he was still in junior college in 2009. The injury required Tommy John surgery, and when Beeler transferred to Oral Roberts, he needed a work-study job in order to pay his way through school as he worked out and rehabbed with the team.

The Cubs noticed his progress and selected Beeler in the 41st round of the 2010, but that was four rounds later than he was picked coming out of high school two years earlier. When the topic of his draft round came up, Beelers eager nature subsided a bit.

"The way I thought of it was 'I'm not getting drafted as a number, I'm getting drafted to have an opportunity to play,'" Beeler said.

But then he brightened up, and embraced his humble beginnings all over again.

"I'm happy that I signed in the 41st round. I'd rather be the underdog than be that guy that's in a high place and comes down. I'd rather be the guy that comes from behind, but shines through and everyone says 'Oh my God, he's the 41st round pick, but he's here.'"

Beeler is almost here.

2012 saw the 6-foot-5 right-hander complete his first full season at Double-A Tennessee, as he tossed 136 innings (a professional career-high) across 27 starts, while holding his own with a 4.24 ERA. If Beeler makes it, it will be on the strength of his control. He's not overpowering, but he's averaged only 2.3 walks per nine innings over the course of his entire minor league career.

While each level in the minors bring a more intense challenge, one constant for Beeler has been the presence of pitching coach Jeff Fassero.

"He's been my pitching coach all three years I've been in pro ball, I think. I signed, and was in Arizona for about a week. He was pitching coach there, but I didn't get to know him. But then my first full year he was in Peoria, and I love him, he's a great guy."

Beeler was promoted to Double-A Tennessee at the end of 2011, and at the start of 2012, Fassero joined him there.

"We get into arguments on the mound," Beeler said, "He'll say this, and I'll say 'Well, I dont want to do that.' But he's one of those guys you can come to a common ground with and realize why he's wanting you to do that."

Listening to advice is something Beeler got used to during his recovery from Tommy John surgery, when he would look for insight and help from anyone who could relate to his experience.

"I talked to Josh Johnson before I had Tommy John surgery," said Beeler, "And I asked him 'any tips or tricks that you can give me?' He said 'Go with a positive attitude. Go in with the attitude of 'alright, this is going to fix me.'"

Focusing on the positive worked for Beeler, and now that he's all the way out and only steps away from realizing his major league dreams, he's all about spreading it around. When fellow Cubs pitching prospect Robert Whitenack went down with the same injury, Beeler was quick to offer an encouraging word.

"I saw Whitenack about three months after he had the surgery in Arizona and I asked him, 'How are you doing?'

"He said 'it gets tight,' and I just tried to give him my experience from it, and let him know 'You may hit a few bumps in the road -- I hit a few bumps in the road, and had a few setbacks. There's going to be pain there, but know that you have to push through the pain. There's going to be scar tissue that's going to pop and you're going to feel like you tore your ligament again, when really all you're doing is stretching it out -- getting that extension back, and getting that range of motion back.'

"Whenever he's got a question for me, I want to be there for him. With everyone who's had Tommy John surgery, it's almost like a family."

Family, humility; both are good things to fall back on for someone who's only good at throwing a baseball.

Rule 5 pick Dylan Covey takes advantage of showcase as White Sox down Indians

Rule 5 pick Dylan Covey takes advantage of showcase as White Sox down Indians

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — If Carlos Rodon starts on the disabled list as expected, the White Sox won't turn to any of their vaunted top prospects in the interim.

The news on Rodon has been encouraging so far as no structural damage has been discovered. Still, the White Sox won't clear Rodon until after he receives a second opinion on Monday. While the length of Rodon's absence won't be determined for several days, the White Sox are certain of one route they won't take — they don't want to disrupt the development of their young starting pitchers. Were a DL trip for Rodon necessary, the White Sox would likely select either Saturday's starter, Dylan Covey, or minor leaguer David Holmberg over their top prospects. Covey made a strong impression on Saturday afternoon with 3 2/3 scoreless innings pitched and the White Sox rallied for a 10-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark.

"When you have an opportunity to stabilize action or movement for players it serves them better," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "They get a little more comfortable where they're at. They get comfortable with the staffs they're working with and the information they're gathering, being in a routine. It is a little disruptive going from team to team to team. It happens, but it's not the most conducive (to learning)."

The White Sox are all about development this season. Therefore, they have no plans to call upon Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer or Michael Kopech unless they're A) ready and B) throwing every fifth day in Chicago. Renteria's comments Saturday reiterated Rick Hahn's earlier message, saying the club doesn't want to disrupt the development path.

That puts Covey, a Rule 5 draft pick in December, with a decent opportunity to make the club out of camp. Covey commanded the strike zone on Saturday only hours after Renteria said he hoped to see the young right-hander replicate an Arizona Fall League performance that initially warmed the White Sox up to him.

Aside from a two-out walk in his final inning, Covey was sharp the whole way. He allowed three hits and struck out three.

"My last couple of outings I was definitely feeling the stress," Covey said. "I was kind of pitching a little passive, pitching to not make a mistake instead of just going right after guys. So today and yesterday I just thought I'm just going to throw every pitch with conviction and see what happens. I got a lot of weak contact today and some swings and misses, so I felt good."

Covey threw 44 pitches, 27 for strikes. He potentially could stay in Arizona on Thursday and make an additional minor league start to build arm strength, which would get him to roughly 60 pitches before the regular seasons started.

The White Sox don't officially need a fifth starter until April 9 and they're off the following day. That break could allow the White Sox to start Covey as part of a bullpen day. Covey said he recently changed his mindset after lackluster results in relief this spring. The right-hander has a 6.94 ERA this spring in 11 2/3 innings.

"Obviously my last two outings out of the pen I wasn't getting crushed, but I just wasn't commanding the ball or commanding the count as much as I would like to be," Covey said. "The mistakes get hit a little harder when you're falling behind in the count. Today I wanted to have the mindset of attacking hitters, throwing everything down in the zone and going right after them, and it worked out."

The White Sox blasted six home runs in the contest, including a majestic, go-ahead grand slam by first baseman Danny Hayes in the top of the ninth inning. Hayes is hitting .351/.400/.595 with two homers and is tied for the team lead with 13 RBIs this spring. Jose Abreu, Nick Delmonico, Cody Asche, Everth Cabrera and Jacob May also homered for the White Sox. 

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

MESA, Ariz. – Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella appears to be the final decision as the Cubs shape their Opening Night roster.

That's assuming good health – manager Joe Maddon sounded unconcerned about Ben Zobrist (stiff neck), Addison Russell (stiff back) and Albert Almora Jr. (stiff neck) – and the Cubs carrying an eight-man bullpen.

Maddon appeared to eliminate one variable, confirming that La Stella has signaled a willingness to go to Triple-A Iowa if necessary, which would normally be an obvious statement, except for last summer's "Where's Tommy?" episode.

"I haven't even thought about it," Maddon said during Saturday's media session at the Sloan Park complex. "It's not an issue. I thought we handled it pretty openly last year and there's been no blowback whatsoever from the players."

Beyond this – La Stella initially refused to report to the minors last July, moved back home to New Jersey and talked briefly about retirement – an American League scout and a National League scout tracking the Cubs in Arizona both agreed that Szczur looks like the superior player.

Plus Szczur – and not La Stella – is out of minor-league options now.

"When you get this kind of a talent, depth-wise, it's a wonderful problem to have," Maddon said. "And then, of course, the rules start creeping in. The rules in this situation would benefit Matt, which is a good thing, because he's a big-league guy that's been riding the shuttle. He's done it in a very stoic manner, and he's been great for us."

La Stella has allies in the clubhouse – Jake Arrieta got a Coastal Carolina tattoo on his right butt cheek after losing a College World Series bet – and goes about his routine in a quiet, diligent manner.

La Stella is not a distraction at all and can hit left-handed and play the infield – two attributes that Szczur can't bring to Maddon's bench.

"Matt Szczur, to me, is a Major League Baseball player," Maddon said. "You're seeing what Tommy can do from the left side of the plate right now. And then it's just a matter of balancing things out. We've already mentioned that some guys on the infield can play the outfield within this group, thus it presents differently regarding what you need."

[MORE CUBS: Javier Baez won’t change his style around Cubs after World Baseball Classic: ‘We’re not showing anybody up’]

Szczur is hitting .361 with a .994 OPS through 14 Cactus League games and can play all over the outfield. But that skill is diminished when the Cubs already have four established outfielders plus Zobrist and Kris Bryant able to shift from the infield.

Then again, defensive wizard Javier Baez should have the Cubs covered all across the infield in case of an emergency. With the defending World Series champs a week out from facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, we're about to find out if Maddon made his recommendation or had a possible trade scenario or disabled-list situation in mind.

"I love Matt Szczur," Maddon said. "This guy as a teammate – you're not going to get a better one. Nobody's going to get a better one on any team for any reason.

"We haven't decided everything or anything yet. Stuff happens in a very short period of time. He is a major-league baseball player. So we'll just wait a couple more days, see how it plays out. But he's a benefit to any group that has him."