2/26/2014 5:39 P.M. ET
Schlitter eager to jump back into big leagues
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- The last time Brian Schlitter pitched in the big leagues was for the Cubs on Aug. 3, 2010, and he struck out pitcher Trevor Hoffman to end the ninth inning. Unfortunately, by that point, the Brewers had an 18-1 lead.
Since that game, he's been claimed by the Yankees, cut by the Yankees, claimed by the Phillies, and then returned to the Cubs because of a past elbow injury. He never pitched for the Yankees or Phillies, and joked Wednesday that it was "a little vacation."
Schlitter was sidelined with a right elbow strain at the end of Spring Training 2011, and eventually needed Tommy John surgery in June that year, and missed that entire season. The right-hander never thought his career was over.
"No, never," he said. "Once I had surgery, I knew I had to go through the rebuilding process, kind of like what we're doing here as a whole [with the Cubs]. It just takes time. I just had to prove I was healthy and there were no problems and no doubt in their mind that I could perform at 100 percent."
Now, he's back in Cubs camp as a non-roster invitee, pitching for the team he grew up following as a kid, and competing for a spot on the big league roster.
"I feel like I'm actually stronger," he said. "I was 24 at the time [I was hurt], and I was still learning. I still am learning. I guess you could say the surgery matured me in a way. I have a better understanding of how to pitch and how to better take care of myself."
He spent the offseason in the Chicago area in Park Ridge, Ill., and the cold and snow made it a tough winter to train, but Schlitter found places indoors.
"Luckily, I have my car in a garage, but it's not like I could drive anywhere sometimes," he said.
Last season at Triple-A Iowa, he saved 20 games and posted a 3.24 ERA.
"Some guys have a knack for it," he said. "Some guys have a knack for starting. I like coming into high-pressure situations in a game."
On Wednesday in the Cubs' intrasquad game, Schlitter pitched one inning in relief, and struck out the the first batter he faced, then gave up a walk, a single and a sacrifice fly. He's not sure what the Cubs have in mind for him.
"I'm just going to go out there and pitch and make it tough on them," he said.
Cubs, Under Armour team up on spring facility
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs' new spring complex will be named the Under Armour Performance Center at Cubs Park. The stadium itself, which hosts its first Cactus League game on Thursday, remains Cubs Park.
The Under Armour Performance Center, which opened this year, features the largest and most advanced strength and conditioning space in the Cactus League.
"Anyone who has walked through that performance center can see what a huge asset it is for us," Chicago general manager Jed Hoyer said. "It only seems appropriate that it's Under Armour that sponsors it. It seems appropriate -- you watch every Under Armour commercial and their focus is on athletes' performance, athletes' fitness. For them to put their name on this, it means a lot."
The Cubs built the facility on the former Riverview Golf Course, and it includes a two-story weight and cardiovascular facility, hydrotherapy room, 120-seat theater, video room and cafeteria. The Major League clubhouse can house 68 lockers, and the Minor League facility has 206 lockers.
Under Armour has been a partner with the Cubs since 2007, and was the first to have a sign on one of the outfield doors at Wrigley Field. Under Armour joins Starwood and Budweiser as a legacy partner of the Cubs.
"They're brands that have bought into what we're doing and building part of the foundation that we're building here," said Colin Faulkner, Cubs vice president of sales and partnerships.
Faulkner said the Cubs are considering naming rights for the new spring stadium.
"It's 'Cubs Park' right now," Faulkner said. "We think there's a lot of value to have a naming rights partner in the park. We've talked to several people about it. We want to make sure we find the right fit, similar to having Under Armour on the performance center, which is a right fit."
The only new signage expected at Wrigley Field this season will be the addition of a see-through Budweiser sign behind the right-field bleachers.
Wrigley Field also is host to the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game, which features the top high school baseball players from around the world.
Fujikawa back on the mound following surgery
MESA, Ariz. -- It was only 20, 25 pitches, but it was the first time Kyuji Fujikawa threw off a mound since he had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, and the Cubs pitcher said he is continuing to make progress.
"It's one step at a time and it's a long process," Fujikawa, who had the procedure last June, said Wednesday through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa.
The right-hander, limited to 12 games last season, his first with the Cubs, said he didn't hesitate during his session on Monday.
"I didn't have any doubts because I was throwing with pretty good intensity on flat ground," he said.
"All I can say now is I'm playing light catch today," he said. "Anything can happen each day. I'm following the medical staff and the [athletic] trainer's plan and following the schedule."
The Cubs are hopeful Fujikawa can pitch for the big league team this summer.
• Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2013, retired all eight batters he faced in Wednesday's intrasquad game. The right-hander was 13-4 at Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa last season.
"He's probably put himself on everybody's radar by the way he went about his business last year," Renteria said. "It doesn't hurt anybody to come out and do well."
Justin Ruggiano, Welington Castillo and Christian Villanueva each hit solo home runs and Junior Lake hit an RBI single in the intrasquad game, which the "home" team won, 5-3. Jorge Soler walked, stole second and scored on Ryan Kalish's single for the tie-breaking run in the fifth.
• Mike Olt did not play third base on Wednesday but was able to get an at-bat as the designated hitter, and drew a walk in the fifth. He said his right arm is a little tender, and the soreness is not unusual.
"It's how it is every year," Olt said. "It hasn't bothered my swing."
Acquired from the Rangers last July in the Matt Garza deal, Olt is a candidate for the Cubs' third-base job. He was scheduled to be the designated hitter on Thursday in the Cubs' Cactus League opener.
• Second baseman Darwin Barney has been working a lot with new hitting coach Bill Mueller in hopes of getting back on track after batting .208 last season.
"We're happy with where we're at right now and feeling comfortable," Barney said. "We feel we have a solid game plan, so we'll keep continuing to move forward with that. I feel good to go. I feel mechanically sound. I feel like I'm getting results off the bat that I want and hopefully I can carry that forward."
• Castillo was the designated hitter on Wednesday in the intrasquad game in an effort to give him at-bats. Castillo had arthroscopic knee surgery in mid September and was slowed a little this spring because of his groin. So far, he's passed all the tests.
"I think everybody is assured he's completely healed and recovered," Renteria said. "Like anything, we need to make sure we're giving him the load of work he needs to get him into the season and that's what we're going to try to do."
Castillo showed his swing is just fine as he led off the fourth inning with a home run off lefty Tsuyoshi Wada.
• Arodys Vizcaino, who has not pitched since 2011 after needing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, threw one inning in the intrasquad game, and walked two and gave up one hit.
"I'm just hoping his health continues to not be an issue," Renteria said. "His arm is live. [The ball] comes out of there pretty easy. It looks like he's using his secondary pitches in live [batting practice] the way he wants to. If he wants to bury a pitch he does it, if he wants to go off the corners he can."
• Jake Arrieta is throwing from flat ground, and continuing to make progress this spring. Arrieta, who was projected for the starting rotation, was slowed because of tightness in his right shoulder.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.