Cubs

How Cubs prospect McNutt got on the fast track

How Cubs prospect McNutt got on the fast track

Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011
8:32 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Trey McNutt answered his cell phone while raking a sand trap on a Tuscaloosa, Ala., golf course.

By that point McNutt had stopped paying attention to the 2009 draft. He had talked with the Pittsburgh Pirates the day before. They discussed taking him in the 11th or 12th round and signing him for close to 100,000. That sounded fair.

McNutt never heard back from them.

Whatever, he was enrolled to take summer classes at Shelton State Community College. And the country club gig was pretty good. The shift ended around 3 p.m. They let you jump in the pool. You could play nine holes for free.

McNutts mother called that morning from the familys home in Haleyville, which is about 90 minutes northwest of Birmingham. It is a small Alabama town with a population less than 5,000. Word traveled fast: The Cubs had drafted him in the 32nd round.

Incredible Cinderella story: This must have seemed like a scene out of Caddyshack. Right before his lunch break, McNutt quit on the spot: I told my boss: I got to go home. I got some stuff to talk about.

It is the question McNutt gets asked all the time: How did you fall so far?

Thats because the buzz is building around the 6-foot-4-inch, 220-pound right-hander. Baseball America ranked him as the games No. 48 overall prospect on a list released Wednesday.

McNutt has a thick, dark beard that makes him look older than 21. Hes gaining notice for a 2010 season in which he combined to go 10-1 with a 2.48 ERA between Class-A Peoria, Class-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee.

I flew under the radar, McNutt said. Ive come a long way since then. Everythings starting to come together. (Im) starting to be able to put pitches where I want to.

In the run-up to the draft, McNutt admits that he put too much pressure on himself and started to question how good he really was. At times, he remembers struggling just to get out of the third inning.

As McNutt regained his composure, the Cubs area scout assigned to Shelton State left the organization during the college season. McNutts coach, Bobby Sprowl, had pitched a little in the big leagues and had some contacts.

The Cubs sent two representatives to the Junior College World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., to evaluate McNutt, though he didnt know they were interested.

The Cubs knew of McNutt, but not enough to grab him before the 980th overall pick.

Shame on me, scouting director Tim Wilken said. Sometimes its hard to believe, (but) we didnt really have any background on the guy. (Sometimes) you got to have some good fortune.

Ultimately, McNutt got that six-figure bonus (115,000) he proposed to the Pirates.

From there Mark Riggins then a minor-league coordinator and now the Cubs pitching coach made a few suggestions. McNutt tweaked his arm slot, moved to the left side of the rubber and developed a feel for a changeup. In 144 career minor-league innings, he has struck out 160 hitters while walking only 52.

The education of McNutt has really only just begun. Hes using this time to talk pitching with Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster and tap into their knowledge.

Thats the upside, he said. Not just to say youre in big-league camp, but to get to learn from the best. I listen to them day in, day out, because theyll help make me a better baseball player.

Kenneth Trey McNutt has a timeline in his head and theres no arguing with how fast hes progressed. He wants to have a strong season at Tennessee, get a promotion by years end, and maybe break camp with the Cubs next spring.

You just never know, McNutt said. Anything can happen.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Where do Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Where do Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis?

In the latest CubsTalk Podcast, Kelly Crull and David Kaplan look ahead to Thanksgiving and discuss the official coaching hires for the Cubs.

They also talk about where the Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, whether Alex Cobb could factor into the rotation plans and Kap goes off on the 11:30 a.m. Opening Day start time.

Check out the entire podcast here: