12/04/07 6:10 PM ET
Ohman, Infante Atlanta-bound
Cubs to receive Double-A reliever Ascanio in return
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"He's one of our prized prospects, he really is," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said of Ascanio. "He throws hard, has a big slider, and a great changeup to go with it. At a young age, that's pretty impressive. We've got other guys like him right now, and we needed a lefty with experience and we needed a guy like Infante."
Ascanio, 22, named to the 2007 Southern League All-Star team, was 2-2 with 10 saves and a 2.54 ERA in 44 games for Double-A Mississippi. The Venezuelan walked just 18 and struck out a career-high 71 over 78 innings.
"He throws strikes," Cox said. "They're going to like him. Whether he makes the team, I don't know. He could."
Ascanio made his Major League debut July 13 against Pittsburgh, and posted a 5.06 ERA in 13 games in relief for the Braves.
The Cubs scouts say Ascanio has been clocked consistently at 95-97 mph and could compete for a job in the bullpen. He is a power arm, and reliever who could go more than one inning.
Ohman, 30, who has been in the Chicago system since 1998 and been slowed by injuries, was 2-4 with a 4.95 ERA in 56 games with the Cubs, and also had a brief stint in August at Triple-A Iowa.
"He had a rough year last year," Cox said of the lefty. "I've seen him enough where I think he pitched real well."
Ohman served up six runs on 11 hits and three walks over six innings in 10 games after the All-Star break, and was demoted. He then revealed that his shoulder has been "barking" for awhile. The injury was a surprise to the Cubs, and the revelation did not sit well with some personnel. Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said that incident had nothing to do with the trade.
"Will came back and handled himself well," Hendry said. "I think he rectified the situation in good fashion. We had Will 10 years. Everybody has good days and bad. Will's a good Major League pitcher. The Atlanta Braves are very intelligent people with one of the finest managers who ever stepped in the dugout. What [general manager] Frank Wren pointed out was that Will's numbers were much better outside of Wrigley Field. They felt it was worth a shot."
The move leaves the Cubs with Scott Eyre, Neal Cotts and Carmen Pignatiello as lefty candidates for the bullpen.
"I have no problem going to camp with what we have," Hendry said. "We won't actively pursue any left-handers in free agency."
The Cubs had acquired Infante, 25, on Nov. 12 from Detroit for outfielder Jacque Jones, and was expected to be used as a backup infielder for the Braves. That was the role the Cubs had projected. He provided some flexibility so Hendry could make the move.
"It's no secret that [Cubs manager Lou Piniella] likes players who can play more than one spot, and the appeal of Infante is that he could play shortstop, second, and all three outfield spots," Hendry said. "Our people felt that he was an above average center fielder, too."
That job could be handled by Ronny Cedeno, who has played shortstop and second, and been asked to play center field this winter.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.