Chavez making the most of his second chance with Cubs
It took eight major-league ballclubs and 17 years, but Jesse Chavez's career has finally come full circle.
The Chicago Cubs drafted the then-17-year-old Chavez in the 39th round of the 2001 MLB Draft. Chavez remembers watching the first round of the draft in Spanish class at A.B. Miller High School in Fontana, California. Chavez didn't pay any attention after the first round.
Weighing just 130 pounds, he will admit he wasn't physically ready for pro ball then.
"I started looking into it and reading more about it," Chavez said. "I just realized my size was the thing. It wasn't the performance or the stuff."
Chavez turned down the Cubs and attended Riverside Community College for two years. Seventeen years later, the Cubs traded for Chavez on July 19 from the Texas Rangers, and already the right-handed relief pitcher has become a valuable piece.
With so many injuries in the bullpen, and with Mike Montgomery's services needed in the starting rotation, Theo Epstein and the front office knew they needed another reliable arm in the pen.
Including the 30 games he pitched for the Rangers, Chavez has a 3.18 earned run average in 68 innings, with 63 strikeouts and 13 walks. In 8 appearances with the Cubs, Chavez has pitched 11.2 innings, allowing just 2 runs.
Chavez, who has been traded seven times in his career, said a good start with his new club takes a little bit of the pressure off.
"It does internally," Chavez said. "At the same time, if you do what you were doing before and not let the moment get you -- keep it even keel -- I think the transition will be a lot smoother."
Cubs manager Joe Maddon already has used Chavez in the eighth inning or later. It's not inconceivable that Chavez could close games if needed. Closer Brandon Morrow remains on the 10-day disabled list with a biceps injury.
"I have no qualms about (Chavez) playing in the latter part of the game at all," Maddon said. "He's been very interesting already. He's as advertised and so we'll see how it plays out. If we need him early to get out of a jam, we'll put him in there. If we don't, you might see him in the latter part of the game."
Maddon called Chavez a "Swiss army knife" out of the bullpen.
"The fact that he's been as good as he has, he's been throwing strikes and so pitch-efficient, that matters," Maddon said. "He's so upbeat and he's very professional about it. We try to tell him before the game what we may do."
Chavez relies heavily on his fastball and cutter. After passing on the Cubs in 2001, Chavez was drafted again in 2002 by the Rangers. He signed a year later and began his pro career in 2003. He broke into the big leagues in 2008.
Chavez was excited to come to the Cubs and to have a chance to contribute for a postseason contender.
"You want to be a part of this team," Chavez said. "As storied as this franchise is, being able to play for a couple in my career, I cherish every moment."
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