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Friday, February 25, 2011
Looper, Wellemeyer ready to compete

By Bruce Levine

MESA, Ariz. -- The futures of veteran pitchers Todd Wellemeyer and Braden Looper will begin to be determined next week when they go against live competition for the first time this spring while trying to win a spot in the rotation.

Braden Looper
Braden Looper last pitched in the major leagues in 2009 with the Brewers when he won 14 games.
Looper missed the entire 2010 season after struggling with injuries in 2009 with the Milwaukee Brewers. He won 14 games in 2009 but that number is a bit deceiving because he allowed a league-leading 123 runs and a league-high 39 home runs coupled with a 5.22 ERA.

At 36, Looper is hoping to re-establish himself with the Cubs after signing a minor league deal on Jan. 27.

"This is the first time in a long time that I had to go to camp and make a team," Looper said. "Typically spring is more about doing things you need to do to get ready and to make sure your body is ready for Opening Day. I still have to do all of that but at the same time make sure I have good results here, so there is balance there, if you know what I mean."

Wellemyer is in the same position, after returning to the Cubs and signing a minor league contract on Jan. 24, The 32-year-old, who was originally signed by the Cubs after being selected in fourth round of the 2000 draft, managed to get a World Series ring last season with the San Francisco Giants even though he was on the disabled list a good majority of the time and released on Aug. 19.

Wellemeyer was 3-5 and started 11 games for the Giants. His best season was 2008 with the St. Louis Cardinals when he was 13-9 with a 3.71 ERA. Like Looper, Wellemeyer has no guarantees of a job out of spring training.

"I feel good," Wellemeyer said. "All I can do is go out there and command my pitches. I need to keep it simple. I'm not thinking about anything except that."

They are longshots, competing against Carlos Silva, Randy Wells, Casey Coleman, Andrew Cashner and James Russell for two spots in the rotation.

"This is my 10th spring training and third as a free agent," Wellemeyer said. "I've had to make teams before and that went pretty well. There's a lot of pitchers vying for just a couple of spots. It is what it is. You just kind of worry about yourself."

Both pitchers are realistic about their chances.

"If they decided they don't have a spot for me maybe someone else will," Wellemeyer said. "All I want to do is pitch and not worry about anyone else."

Looper, who said earlier in camp he wasn't sure if he wanted to pitch out of the bullpen, admits the reality of fighting for a job can creep into his mind from time to time.

"We are all human beings. You definitely go out there and try not to worry about making the team," Looper said. "But I would be lying if I said it didn't enter my mind every once in awhile. You try to keep it as simple as you can. It's all about execution."

The Cubs have no economic commitment to either pitcher. They can be released before the season without the Cubs being responsible for any compensation.