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Beliveau enjoying first stay in big league camp

Beliveau enjoying first stay in big league camp

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Beliveau enjoying first stay in big league camp
MESA, Ariz. -- Jeff Beliveau, Andrew Cashner, DJ LeMahieu and Chris Carpenter all played in the Arizona Fall League last year, and when the season ended, the four players -- who were all in the Cubs organization at that time -- decided to take a vacation to the Bahamas.

"I'm the only one left from that vacation now," Beliveau said.

Cashner was traded to the Padres for Anthony Rizzo, LeMahieu was dealt with Tyler Colvin to the Rockies for Ian Stewart, and Carpenter was sent to the Red Sox in February as compensation for Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations.

The Cubs still have to send another player to the Red Sox. They have yet to announce compensation for general manager Jed Hoyer. Is Beliveau nervous?

"A little bit," the left-handed pitcher said. "After Cashner was traded, me and Carpenter were messing around, and saying, 'If you went on the Atlantis trip, you're getting traded.' Now it's three out of four."

The Cubs are expected to hang onto Beliveau as long as they can. In 2011, he went 6-2 with five saves and a 1.57 ERA in 53 relief appearances between Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, and was named the Cubs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

He struck out 89 over 74 1/3 innings and walked 19, holding opponents to a .192 batting average. He has made progress each year. In 2009, he walked 45 in 96 2/3 innings, and in 2010, walked 29 in 64 1/3 innings.

He did not walk a left-handed batter in 23 at-bats at Daytona or in 71 at-bats at Tennessee. Not a single one.

"Maybe it was just maturity a little bit, just getting comfortable with my body," Beliveau said, trying to find an explanation. "I've come to camp at 180 [pounds], I've come to camp at 220. I finally found a routine that works for me, and I feel comfortable right now. I feel strong, not too skinny, able to repeat the same delivery.

"I found things in my diet and workout that help me get ready for the next day," he said. "It took me three, four years to figure it out. It's tough -- I went from being a starter and having a set routine, to being a reliever where it's tough to get a schedule."

He talked to Cashner about that. Some pitchers prefer a starter's routine, some like more action.

"Last year, I was really happy with my routine, and once you get on a routine and have success and get a little confidence, it just kind of snowballs," Beliveau said. "Then you're not sitting around watching video to tweak the little things because it just comes second nature."

His ideal weight is 195 pounds, which is where he's at this spring.

"He's one of those kids who has a lot of poise about everything he does," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the lefty. "I think he expects a lot out of himself. His numbers in the Minor Leagues prove there's something to keep an eye on, and a swing-and-miss fastball. He knows he had to get a little better with his offspeed stuff and that kind of thing, but he's a really good athlete who can make those kind of adjustments."

What's helped Beliveau, 25, grow up in the game is international experience. Last year, he actually pitched for five teams. Besides Daytona and Tennessee, Beliveau also competed with Team USA in the Baseball World Cup in Panama and the Pan American Games in Mexico in October. Cubs outfielder Brett Jackson was his teammate.

"Panama kind of blew my mind," Beliveau said. "It was very Americanized. It was a lot more than I expected. It was the best accomodations, and we were treated very well.

"Mexico was a little sketchier," he said. "We had to have a lot of security. It was just a lot of hassle."

The games were played in Lagos de Morenos, Mexico, and there wasn't room in the village for the U.S. players, so they stayed two hours away from everyone.

When that tournament finished -- and the U.S. took home silver -- Beliveau joined the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. He pitched in four games, all in relief, and struck out seven while walking one.

"I thought the competition was very good," Beliveau said of the AFL. "We had numerous games in double digits. I had a good time."

In his first spring outing, on March 4 against the Athletics, Beliveau walked three and gave up one hit, and had to be lifted because he couldn't retire a batter. In his next game on March 7 against the Royals, he gave up four hits over one inning and struck out one.

On Sunday, Beliveau found his groove. Against the Dodgers, the lefty struck out five in two hitless innings.

"That's kind of what we expected," Sveum said. "A few more swings and misses at the fastball. He topped out at 91 miles an hour. He worked out a few things -- had a nice breaking ball, back-doored one for strike three, and had command. The life was there that hasn't been there.

"It was his third outing, so this is when you start evaluating -- after guys have been on the mound and are a little more comfortable," Sveum said. "It was nice to see what we all expected and thought about."

What Beliveau did to get on track was watch video from his Tennessee outings.

"My first few outings, I felt like I was not where I needed to be," he said. "I was really searching to find something. We've been doing video in the video room here, but it's been of my not good appearances. I went back to video from Tennessee, and I found something that wasn't right. I played catch two days ago, and actually told the psychological guy that I've got it figured out."

It wasn't that the Cubs felt Beliveau needed to work on the mental part of his game with team psychologist Dr. Marc Strickland. The lefty was just joking.

"We were talking about the mental side and when I don't have control, what I have to work on, and I came in after playing catch, and said, 'Doc, we're good,'" Beliveau said. "I needed that [outing Sunday]. I was feeling down about pitching, and I was trying to find something, and had nothing to fall back on."

Beliveau is soaking everything in during his first big league spring camp. The coaches have monitored him carefully, and tried to get him to think about game situations. For example, they wanted him to pretend a quick runner is on base, which would force him to quicken his delivery. He's adding a slide step as well.

"They've given me good feedback," Beliveau said. "They give me compliments about my fastball, a swing-and-miss fastball. That's not a bad thing to have."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["spring_training" ] }
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