A hit from the start

MESA, Ariz. -- Corey Patterson is hitting .200 with Seattle, while Felix Pie is doing pretty good in camp with Baltimore. Ryan Harvey, if you remember him, hit a three-run homer the other day for Colorado.

Three of the Cubs' best outfield prospects in the past decade are trying to make a roster somewhere else, and perhaps only Pie has a chance to really contribute. Patterson and Pie, two of the Cubs' most infamous prospects in recent memory, at least got a chance to fail in the big leagues. Harvey's career flatlined in the minors.

Tyler Colvin is getting his own shot to make a name for himself as the rare Cubs prospect who realizes his potential.

Colvin, the Cubs' 2006 first-round pick, is trying to break a chain of disappointing outfielders, and he wasn't just gifted a spot in the major-league roster out of camp.

"He earned a spot on our roster," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "He played very, very well this spring. There was never really a doubt for awhile. He played himself onto the roster."

This didn't seem like the right time for the 24-year-old to make his move. After Milton Bradley was traded to Seattle, the Cubs signed veterans Marlon Byrd and Xavier Nady to rotate in with Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome.

That's nothing new. The Cubs have paid big bucks to free-agent outfielders like Soriano and Fukudome, and made multi-year commitments to Bradley and Byrd. Was Colvin eying the roster in the minors, wondering if he would ever get a chance?

"You know what, I couldn't really worry about that," he said. "The Cubs are trying to win, obviously, and get the best guys in here to do the job. And like I said, we've got four great guys here. We just signed Marlon Byrd and Xavier Nady and they do a great job for us. Hopefully I can get in there and do some things, too."

Colvin, who looks like he should be playing forward for Butler with his lanky frame and fresh-faced countenance, had resisted touting himself after a scorching spring training in which he's hitting .468 (going into Monday's game). But he got word on Sunday that Piniella told reporters he had made the team.

"Right after the game, I got a lot of texts," he said. "I didn't know where it was coming from. I guess we'll find out soon enough."

Colvin got the official, official word from Piniella after reporters talked to him Monday morning.

There is no question Colvin has been the surprise of a pretty quiet camp. Even he didn't expect to make the team out of camp, though Nady's inability to play the outfield this spring, due to surgically repaired elbow, has a lot to do with the timing. Regardless, Colvin has hit consistently enough to make the roster, and has young legs that will certainly be welcome.

"I was hoping to play well and hopefully if they needed me later in the season, they'd say, 'You know Colvin had a good camp. Maybe we should give him a chance,' as long as I'm hitting down there," Colvin said. "The great spring helped me out, that's all I can ask for."

The 13th overall pick out of Clemson four years ago, Colvin had a very nice season in Double-A Tennessee in 2009, batting .300 with 15 homers and 50 RBIs in 84 games. He played 137 games in Double-A in 2008 and while he only hit .256, he collected 53 extra-base hits (out of 138) and 80 RBIs. The problem was that he struck out 101 times in 540 at-bats, and he wound up back at Single-A Daytona the next season. He had 57 extra-base hits in 307 at-bats last year, and eight in 33 at-bats this spring.

But he's hit too well to go down to the minors. Colvin was on a five-game hitting tear after Sunday's game. He's hitting .522 (12 for 23) with a pair of doubles, a triple, a home run and six RBIs.

There is no guarantee he will be on the roster in May, but the Cubs plan on throwing him to the fire early, which should make the April games all the more interesting.

"We're going to get some playing time for Colvin," Piniella said. "It would be good for all of our outfielders to get a day off occasionally so they can stay strong, less prone to injury. So we'll figure out something here over the next few days."

With Bradley suspended last season, Colvin was a September call-up. He drove in two runs during his stay.

"I got to get comfortable with big crowds," he said. "That's one of the biggest things. You see all these big players on TV play and you're like, 'Man, I could be there some day.' You get there and you realize it's just baseball, just at a higher level."

Colvin brought his clothes, expecting to report to Iowa, most likely, where they don't have to wear suits on the road and the dress codes at your finer clubs are a little more lax.

"Now," he said. "I've got to get some nicer clothes."

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.