Pawelek on Bullpen Move

Mark Pawelek

Mark Pawelek says he understands the Cubs recent decision to temporarily move the left-hander and 2005 first-round draft pick into the bullpen. For what it's worth, he even supports it.

The news that he would begin the year in the bullpen with Class A Peoria this season came as no surprise to Pawelek.

"I saw their logic in it because I hadn't been throwing consistent strikes," he said following a workout on Wednesday, one day before the Chiefs open Midwest League play on the road in Appleton, Wis., against Wisconsin.

The reason for Pawelek's bout of inconsistency this spring stems from a mechanical issue that the southpaw is currently attempting to iron out with Chiefs pitching coach David Rosario.

"Basically, I have to stay behind the ball with my fingers and come through so that my hand doesn't slide off to the side and make the ball cut into the hitters," Pawelek explained of his current quirk. "It's just a little kink right now and it shouldn't take too long to correct."

All the same, Pawelek will temporarily pitch in relief, just as he did a season ago at Class Low-A Boise on the Northwest League circuit.

But this time is different for Pawelek, who came into his first spring camp in 2006 out of shape physically and was held over in Extended Spring Training until short-season play commenced in mid-June.

By contrast, Pawelek came into spring camp 2007 in overly good shape, which prompted Cubs Farm Director Oneri Fleita to remind Pawelek's critics of the age-old adage that boys will be boys.

"The part you try to tell people is that you can't read it in a book on how to prepare (for spring camp). It's all about experience," Fleita said.

After being behind schedule a year ago at this time, Pawelek eventually went on to end 2006 on a high note.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound product of Springville (Utah) High, who went 10-0 without allowing an earned run in his final prep season, suffered a loss in his first three outings with Boise last summer and was moved to the bullpen for almost a month in early July. He closed with 42 strikeouts to 14 walks over his final 10 starts, where he boosted a 1.88 ERA and .213 average against.

As with last season, Pawelek's stint in the bullpen should only be a short-term fix. In addition to his mechanical flaw, the Cubs felt Pawelek didn't get enough reps in this spring, and that his stint in the bullpen will only build on the pitcher's arm strength.

"Wherever I go, it's always going to be a challenge," Pawelek said. "I just have to go out and pitch the way I can and help my team get wins the best I can. I'm looking forward to this year, especially getting bumped up to full-season ball and everything. I hear these guys have good crowds."

What they also have, at least this time of year, is cold temperatures. Wednesday's high in Appleton was 39 degrees; in Peoria, the high was 34.

"It's going to be a little bit cold in Wisconsin," Pawelek acknowledged. "But baseball is baseball. When I was in high school, I once pitched in 32-degree weather with sleet."

Peoria opens their season against Wisconsin beginning at 6:35 p.m. (CDT) Thursday. Thursday's low in Appleton is forecast at 19 degrees with a chance of snow for the duration of the three-game series.

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