Pitcher Angel Guzman, whom Baseball America has named the Cubs' top pitching prospect for two straight years, managed just 11 appearances in the minors last year after recovering from shoulder surgery in 2003.
But the 23-year-old right-hander could be back stronger than ever. Farm director Oneri Fleita watched Guzman throw in a few sessions in Venezuela recently.
"Angel told Oneri it's the best he's felt by far since before the surgery," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "He's not taking as long to get loose again.
"He will come to camp, but we're not going to rush him. I don't see a scenario he would break with the club because he missed so much time. I certainly would pencil him in at (Triple-A) Iowa, and if he can get out of the gate and have success and be his old self, we would be able to go get him."
I of course L.O.V.E. the 40-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio Guzman put up at one level last year, but I'm still not as raving mad happy about him as many Cubs fans seem to be. Guzman has been treated gingerly since his shoulderish injury, which is good, but he still hasn't proven that he can throw a lot of innings in a year.
Still, he may be the most likely candidate from the minors to bully his way into the rotation at some point this year.