Pie, Hill nearly out of time to impress
Once highly touted prospects now left to ponder dwindling futures
CHICAGO -- Felix Pie was the Cubs' center fielder of the future. Rich Hill seemed to be on the verge of being a fixture in the rotation for years to come.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry made it clear Wednesday the team can't wait for the two to figure it out.
Pie and Hill are out of options, which means they will either make the Cubs' 25-man roster, clear waivers and stay in the organization -- which is unlikely -- or wind up someplace else.
Ronny Cedeno and Angel Guzman also are out of options. Cedeno has value as a utility infielder. Guzman, who has been slowed by injuries, could rally.
But Pie and Hill?
"Rich has gone from a very quality starter in the National League to having a disastrous-type season," Hendry said of the lefty, who led the Cubs in strikeouts and won 11 games in 2007 but struggled last season. "In winter ball, he was very up and down again. This is the big leagues. You've got to earn what you get."
The same is true for Pie, who batted .241 in 43 games last season with the Cubs, while hitting .287 at Triple-A Iowa.
"Felix obviously played very well defensively and has not come around with the bat," Hendry said. "It's tough. We don't have the luxury here to say, 'Let's run somebody out there for 140, 150 games and see if they can hit.'
"We're here to win. We're here to try to win a championship. When you get to the big leagues, it's not about development as much anymore as winning ballgames. It's no different than anything else in life. You earn the lot you have."
The Cubs acquired free agent Joey Gathright this offseason, and the speedy outfielder can do what the team has wanted Pie to do.
"Two or three years ago, Pie was a better looking prospect than [Ryan] Theriot or [Geovany] Soto," Hendry said. "Obviously, those two guys have earned their stripes and Felix hasn't yet. He's still a young man, and sometimes the bat comes later for people."
Theriot impressed Cubs manager Lou Piniella in Spring Training during 2007 and eventually earned the starting shortstop job, while Soto was tabbed the regular catcher last season and won National League Rookie of the Year.
Pie just hasn't progressed at the plate. The Cubs don't feel they can wait. Last year was the 100th anniversary of the last time the Cubs won a World Series, and Hendry and Piniella grew weary of reminders.
The Cubs did win the NL Central for the second consecutive year, and they did post the best record in the NL last year. But getting swept in the postseason back to back is what fans remember.
"The thing I would remind people of starting today and tell the players in Spring Training, it's not easy to win the division," Hendry said. "There's an assumption, how are we going to do better in the playoffs? You better get there first.
"We'll address how we'll handle the playoffs once we know we're in them again. It's a long way from a lock."
And so are Pie and Hill.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.