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Villanueva ready to take ball whenever he's called


MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs righty Carlos Villanueva is apparently able to pitch at anytime, anywhere, even if it is last minute.

"I don't take long to get ready or anything," Villanueva said Thursday after his third Cactus League start, which was planned and not an impromptu outing.

"You tell me the day before and I'll be ready," he said. "I've dealt with it before. I've been in the bathroom 10 minutes before a game and found out I'm starting. I remember a couple years ago, Chris Capuano had a groin thing and people kept saying, 'You're starting.' And I said, 'Nah, I'm not.' I started."

Villanueva did well in that game for the Brewers on June 13, 2007. He gave up one run on five hits over five innings, striking out four. Milwaukee won, 3-2.

"For me, tell me when to take the ball and I'll take the ball," he said.

The right-hander doesn't know where he'll be slotted in the Cubs' rotation, but he does know he's included. Injuries to Matt Garza and Scott Baker have forced the Cubs to insert Villanueva, who has been used as both a starter and reliever in his career.

On Thursday, he gave up two runs on six hits over four innings against the White Sox, striking out three. He did serve up a home run to Paul Konerko, but didn't walk anyone.

"The hits will happen," Villanueva said. "Some days they'll hit it hard at somebody, some days they'll loop it and it'll fall down. I'm more satisfied with my sequences today. For the first time I used my offspeed and had guys on base in scoring position a little bit, and it made me work. ... I think we're progressing very well."

He knows how valuable it is to have a pitcher who can multi-task, and also how overlooked he is.

"Our value is definitely under appreciated, if you ask me," Villanueva said of the long man who can make a spot start. "If I was ever managing, I would want at least two guys who can do what I've done. It's not an easy job.

"There's no market for it," he said. "When you go to arbitration with somebody, you hear you're not good enough to start, you're not good enough to close and it obviously drives the value down. But you ask a manager or a pitching coach or the guys who play behind you, if your starter doesn't have it that day, and it's a two-run game and you can bring that guy in the third inning and can hold it there, that's a beautiful thing."

If Villanueva can do so well without knowing when he's starting, maybe the Cubs shouldn't tell him.

"I think it's better because you have less time to think about it," he said. "I think I had four, five days off after that."

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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