Angel ready to fly high after injuries

Angel ready to fly high after injuries

MESA, Ariz. -- Angel Guzman has been highly touted since 2001, yet injuries have slowed the Venezuelan right-hander's career. Despite having a fluid, easy motion, Guzman needed arthroscopic shoulder surgery in July 2003, and last year was sidelined because of a strained right forearm.

Guzman, 24, who has a career Minor League record of 27-14 and a 2.61 ERA, pitched in the Arizona Fall League in October to make up for missed time. He looks strong this spring.

Guzman isn't babied. He's able to do everything the other starting pitchers are doing, although Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild said he may give the young pitcher an extra day here or there to be safe.

"He's lost some valuable time and he's lost some valuable experience in there," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We don't know if he's quite back to where he was before, even though he's throwing the ball very good."

Guzman also is doing a smart thing by following Greg Maddux during the pitcher drills. He can learn a lot by watching the 15-time Gold Glove winner.

The right-hander won't be needed at the start of the season and will likely open at Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs are keeping their fingers crossed that Guzman will make his Major League debut soon.

On the move: Catcher Geovany Soto will be busy this spring. Soto will be getting a lot of starts while Michael Barrett and Henry Blanco play in the World Baseball Classic. Soto hit .253 last year at Triple-A Iowa with four homers and 39 RBIs. Jake Fox, a third-round pick in 2003, also will help fill in innings-wise. Fox hit .281 at Class A Daytona.

On the pine: No injuries to report, but there is good news on three players who battled aches and pains last year. Pitcher Chadd Blasko, selected in the supplemental round in 2002, Rocky Cherry, a 14th-round pick in 2002, and Jon Connolly, whom the Cubs acquired from Detroit in a trade, all are over their injuries and likely headed to Double-A West Tenn. Cherry appeared in three games last year for West Tenn while Connolly pitched in nine games. Blasko missed the entire 2005 season.

Names in the game: Don Buford, who turned 69 on Feb. 2, will be the new manager at Class A Daytona. Buford played for the White Sox and Baltimore Orioles, and last season was a coach for the Washington Nationals. His son, Damon, played for the Cubs in 2000-01. The senior Buford used to barnstorm with Baker, when Baker played for the Dodgers.

"I'm a new rookie," Buford said. "When you're a rookie, you start all over and you have that excitement and energy."

They're No. 1: Right-handed pitcher Bobby Brownlie is looking good this spring. Brownlie, a No. 1 pick in 2002, is making quick progress through the system. He was 6-7 with a 4.74 ERA last year at Triple-A Iowa. He'll open there again this year.

Class of '05: Mark Pawelek, the club's No. 1 pick in 2005, appears headed to Class A Peoria this year. Pawelek was 0-3 with a 2.54 ERA last season in 15 games -- all but one of those at Mesa with the Rookie League team. Because of the overload of pitchers in the Cubs Minor League system, lefty Donald Veal and right-hander Mark Holliman, the second and third picks last June, could be assigned to Daytona.

What they're saying: "That's cool, but he's my teammate. I'd rather break the bat of somebody on the Cardinals." -- Cubs pitcher Randy Wells, who jammed Juan Pierre with a pitch and broke Pierre's bat during a session last week

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.