Gerardo Concepcion has a lot on his plate. The 20-year-old Cuban native is in a new country, unfamiliar town and establishing himself in the Cubs organization.
"l feel pretty good about it," Concepcion said, speaking through a translator. "This organization, I feel really comfortable in it. There are a lot of Latin players and Cuban players in the organization. That's helpful for me in getting accustomed to this country. I really like it."
Concepcion, a left-handed starting pitcher, was signed by the Cubs organization in March. He signed a five-year deal, guaranteeing $6 million in the deal, with a $3 million signing bonus. He joined the Peoria Chiefs in mid-April.
Nearly two months into his Cubs career, Concepcion is beginning to feel at home with the organization. Part of the reason is because many of his Peoria teammates and coaches also speak Spanish.
Concepcion's new team has done its part to make his transition a smooth one.
"Everyone's together, one family on this club," said Peoria manager Casey Kopitzke. "Anything he needs -- just like anyone else -- we're all there for each other, whether it's on the field or off the field."
The warm welcome has helped make Concepcion ease into his new surroundings.
"I might not have been so comfortable in any other organization because they might not have had the staff that we have here," said Concepcion. "I feel comfortable because all the guys are willing to help me out."
However, Concepcion has struggled on the mound during his first two starts at the Low-A level. He allowed five earned runs in five innings of work during his debut, then allowed seven runs and retired two batters in his second start.
Concepcion has allowed 13 hits and 12 runs in 5.2 innings of work in his two starts with Peoria. One year ago, pitching for the Inustralies, Concepcion earned Cuban National Series Rookie of the Year honors, finishing with a 10-3 record and a 3.36 ERA.
"It's a part of baseball, everyone goes through ups and downs," Concepcion said. "It's something I'm not happy about, but I'm making an effort to learn from my mistakes and better myself for the following start."
The young pitcher has not lost any confidence after two troubling outings. He still maintains a strong demeanor and work ethic.
"He comes with a great attitude every day and he competes," Kopitzke said. "Unfortunately, the start of his outing haven't gone as well as he wanted, but he does what we ask, he competes and gives us everything."
When Concepcion met with the Cubs' front-office brass, the message delivered was clear; the expectations were in place.
"They just asked me to pitch," Concepcion said. "Based on my results and attitude, I hold my future in my own hands. I'm just working off of that, really."
Concepcion's future is filled with promise, much in part from his strong work ethic. Kopitzke is optimistic for the southpaw's career.
"I think he has a lot of potential," the Chiefs' third-year manager said. "You point to just his stuff, it's stuff that is going to really develop and play well. He's got a good fastball, spins a really good breaking ball, and has a nice changeup. He competes, throws strike, he's got everything that you want."
Concepcion is focused on learning from his early mistakes and improving as a Peoria Chief, though a bright future likely lies ahead.
"Like very other player in this situation, I just want to become a big-leaguer," said Concepcion. "I'm not worried about the future, I'm just worried about what's going on right now. That's all I can control."