03/01/2006 1:00 PM ET
Chick ready to stick with Reds
Young righty eager to settle in, fine tune and move up
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Travis Chick's baby face and pleasant, open personality present a fresh, innocent image. He's only 21 and has the potential to emerge as a heartthrob someday in Cincinnati.
That's why it's so difficult to think of the Texas native as grizzled, worldly wise, or even savvy. But, as he forges ahead in his first Spring Training with the Reds, Chick certainly has seen his share of the world. Cincinnati marks the third franchise for which the highly touted right-hander has donned a uniform, and he's hoping it will be the last.
The Reds acquired Chick last summer in a July deal with that saw Joe Randa head west. The trade came less than a year after the Padres had picked him up from Florida in exchange for Ismael Valdez. So, when it comes to buying real estate or settling down in a certain town, Chick might not be the best person to consult. He's hoping now, though, that the only traveling he'll be doing is from Chattanooga to Louisville, ultimately ending his journey in the Queen City.
"You tell me," Chick laughed when asked if he could finally unpack his bags. "I'm trying. I made it a week shy of a year with San Diego. I guess it all depends on how well I do and who else wants me. It's a tough thing to go through. Everyone would like to stay with one team his whole career. That's not the way it falls sometimes. It's weird being so young and getting traded twice.
"You know the first time I got traded it was a big shock. I didn't even know I could be traded. But this time, when they told me I had to go talk to the manager, it hit me. It was a reality check."
The reality for the Reds, though, is that they may have found a gem in Chick, who was originally drafted in the 14th round (2002) by the Marlins. Despite his age, Chick has 87 career games on his resume and spent the entire 2005 season in Double-A, splitting time between Mobile and Chattanooga in the Southern League.
While Chick struggled at times with his stuff last year -- he was 4-11 with a 4.79 ERA in 27 starts -- he began to settle in once he arrived in Chattanooga. He went 2-2 with a 4.86 ERA in eight starts for the Lookouts, then headed for Instructional League, where the Reds hope the work he did will help him regain the measure of consistency that helped him to an 11-4 mark in 2004. He won't use the nomadic existence he has endured in recent years as a crutch for his performance, though.
"It's not his fault that he's moved around," said Grant Griesser, Cincinnati's assistant director of player development. "He's still a big-time prospect at a young age. He's a quick learner and he works hard. He's young and he's already competing at a fairly high level. We have high hopes for him. At 21 to be at Double-A, that's pretty impressive.
"I can't speak for him, but I'm sure it was difficult moving around like that. You have different sets of pitching coaches, new teammates, new organizations and new policies. There's no continuity. When you bounce around like that it's a challenge, but he's come through with a great attitude."
It helps that Chick has a solid, low-90's fastball that drops through the strike zone. His breaking ball has some downward bite on it, as well. While his changeup can use some work, Chick is aggressive on the mound and doesn't like to waste many pitches.
Chick, who grew up idolizing Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens (he is from Texas after all), says he just wants to fine tune everything this spring, from his delivery to his repertoire. He's likely headed back to Chattanooga, at least to start the year, but Griesser didn't rule out the possibility of his moving along quickly. Chick got started on Tuesday, throwing to live batters, and was pleased with the result.
"Last year, in my first camp with the Padres, the first time I pitched was against the Mariners and I was so nervous," Chick said on Wednesday. "I think I threw my first strike on the seventh pitch. But yesterday, in my first game, I felt like I belonged. The comfort level is different.
"I still just want to sit back, watch and learn. I don't want to go out and make a spectacle of myself. Remember, other than Homer [Bailey] I'm still the youngest guy here."
And it shows, even if there is more to him than his appearance.