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Schlitter eager to jump back into big leagues

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MESA, Ariz. -- The last time Brian Schlitter pitched in the big leagues was for the Cubs on Aug. 3, 2010, and he struck out pitcher Trevor Hoffman to end the ninth inning. Unfortunately, by that point, the Brewers had an 18-1 lead.

Since that game, he's been claimed by the Yankees, cut by the Yankees, claimed by the Phillies, and then returned to the Cubs because of a past elbow injury. He never pitched for the Yankees or Phillies, and joked Wednesday that it was "a little vacation."

Schlitter was sidelined with a right elbow strain at the end of Spring Training 2011, and eventually needed Tommy John surgery in June that year, and missed that entire season. The right-hander never thought his career was over.

"No, never," he said. "Once I had surgery, I knew I had to go through the rebuilding process, kind of like what we're doing here as a whole [with the Cubs]. It just takes time. I just had to prove I was healthy and there were no problems and no doubt in their mind that I could perform at 100 percent."

Now, he's back in Cubs camp as a non-roster invitee, pitching for the team he grew up following as a kid, and competing for a spot on the big league roster.

"I feel like I'm actually stronger," he said. "I was 24 at the time [I was hurt], and I was still learning. I still am learning. I guess you could say the surgery matured me in a way. I have a better understanding of how to pitch and how to better take care of myself."

He spent the offseason in the Chicago area in Park Ridge, Ill., and the cold and snow made it a tough winter to train, but Schlitter found places indoors.

"Luckily, I have my car in a garage, but it's not like I could drive anywhere sometimes," he said.

Last season at Triple-A Iowa, he saved 20 games and posted a 3.24 ERA.

"Some guys have a knack for it," he said. "Some guys have a knack for starting. I like coming into high-pressure situations in a game."

On Wednesday in the Cubs' intrasquad game, Schlitter pitched one inning in relief, and struck out the the first batter he faced, then gave up a walk, a single and a sacrifice fly. He's not sure what the Cubs have in mind for him.

"I'm just going to go out there and pitch and make it tough on them," he said.

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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