MESA, Ariz. – Cubs fans will have to wait to see Arodys Vizcaino throwing 100 mph bullets out of the bullpen.
The Cubs optioned Vizcaino to Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday, along with former first-round picks Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, third baseman Christian Villanueva and left-handed reliever Zac Rosscup. The latest round of cuts also included $3.1 million Cuban pitcher Armando Rivero, outfielder Mitch Maier and catcher Rafael Lopez, who were assigned to minor-league camp.
Vizcaino knows something about patience after missing the last two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery and building up strength after a follow-up procedure on his right elbow.
“We’re still following the plan, making sure he continues to get his innings in a controlled environment,” manager Rick Renteria said at Cubs Park. “We’ll kind of ease him back in. He’s been out for two years and needs to get into more game situations and things of that nature and make sure he’s able to handle it all.”
Vizcaino pitched three scoreless innings in the Cactus League and might have the best stuff in camp – when he’s healthy – which should make him a weapon at Wrigley Field at some point this season.
But the Cubs want to protect the 23-year-old right-hander, who had been one of the top prospects in the Atlanta Braves system before getting injured. That made Vizcaino available in the 2012 Paul Maholm/Reed Johnson trade.
“He’s got a great arm,” Renteria said. “We’re happy and I think he’s really happy. It’s been two years and he’s really worked hard. He understands and he’s ready to get after it.”
The Cubs once had big plans for Jackson, the 31st overall pick in the 2009 draft out of Cal-Berkeley who regressed the last two seasons as he tried to fix his swing and change his approach toward the organization’s philosophy.
It got in Jackson’s head as he struck out 217 times during a 2012 season split between Iowa and Chicago. He dealt with injuries last season and got bumped back to Double-A Tennessee.
“I don’t worry too much about his strikeouts,” Renteria said, “because I think there’s a lot of damage that also comes with his stick on the other side of it.”
Jackson is still 25 years old, with an interesting power/speed skill set that could make him a useful piece, if not the core player he was supposed to be at Clark and Addison. He struck out 10 times in 20 Cactus League at-bats, but also homered and put up seven RBI and four walks.
“If his approaches are good and he’s able to get the particular pitches that he likes to handle, it’s going to be good,” Renteria said. “He does have the ability to still recognize the zone pretty well. I think I saw that this spring. He plays a nice center and is going to continue to work (at the corner outfield spots). He’s a pretty-good-looking player.”