MWL notes: Cease letting loose in South Bend

Injury behind him, Cubs righty dominating in full-season debut

Dylan Cease is 1-1 with a 1.88 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 16 walks over six starts for South Bend this season. (Jared Ravich/

By Curt Rallo / Special to | May 11, 2017 10:00 AM ET

It's the opportunity that Dylan Cease, the No. 3 prospect in the Cubs organization, has been waiting for since 2014 -- a chance to unleash the velocity that lights up radar guns.

Cease, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander, earned All-American status at Georgia's Milton High School. He suffered an elbow injury his senior season but was still taken by the Cubs in the sixth round of the 2014 Draft and signed for a $1.5 million bonus.

The Cubs mapped out a cautious recovery from Tommy John surgery for Cease, who can hit triple digits on a radar gun. He pitched 24 innings in 2015 in the Arizona Rookie League. Last season in Eugene, he worked 44 2/3 frames. This year in South Bend, Cease has pitched 28 2/3 innings over six appearances. He appeared in 11 games in 2015 and 12 in 2016.

"This is the first year since my surgery where I really get to go at it," said Cease, who is 1-1 with a 1.88 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 16 walks this season. "It's fun. The surgery changed me. For one, physically, it taught me to take care of my body and my arm better. I was able to work out that year off and learn a lot about my mechanics. As a person, any time you go through anything difficult, you're going to learn from it. I think the experience definitely helped me grow up."

Given the wealth of position players the Cubs continue to develop, Cease has been in the spotlight as the team's top arm and the No. 68 prospect in the game.

"I don't put too much stock into [expectations]," Cease said. "I'm in low A right now, and I'm a lot of levels away, and we have a ton of good pitching. I'm taking it day-by-day and trying not to get carried away with stuff.

"I think the main thing for me is just to get experience. You don't want to change or tinker every game. I'm at the point where I'm happy with my mechanics. I'm not making adjustments. It's just getting that feel, and that's something that comes with time. I can't rush that. It's slowly but surely getting there."

Video: Cubs' Cease fans his seventh

Cease tried to soak up as much knowledge about the game during his rehab by talking to other pitchers.

"I look at anything that might give me an edge," Cease said. "I love watching baseball. If someone has a really good change-up, I'll ask them, 'What do you think makes your change-up good?' or 'What do you think makes your curveball good?' I talked to a lot of older guys during rehab. I would ask questions all day and pick their brains.

"I didn't want to be in a rehab situation, but it gave me an opportunity to take a year and develop without having the pressure of playing. I developed the mental part of the game. That was one area where I thought I could definitely get better. The rehab experience gave me the opportunity to learn a lot, and now I'm applying it."

Brian Lawrence, who was Cease's pitching coach at Eugene and is with him again at South Bend, said Cease has a tendency to be too analytical.

"With the stuff he has, he doesn't have to think about it too much, and he does, which can be an issue," Lawrence said. "He definitely asks questions. He's not afraid to ask a question. He talks to everybody. Sometimes, he may be overthinking things. He's always looking for that edge."

Lawrence said Cease has been in the organization for four years, but he's really just starting.

"From last year to this year, the progress he's made has been awesome," Lawrence said. "He's worked hard and he's come a long way in the year. It's great to see a kid grow and get better."

Lawrence said consistency is the main issue for Cease.

"He's missing some, but his fastball is so good, they're not hitting it," Lawrence said about Cease's ability to overpower Midwest League hitters. "To the naked eye, he looks like he's dominating, and he is at this level, but to see the future, he has to get better execution of his pitches, and that's what he's working on. He's going out there, and he's able to get through games pretty easily, but he's still working on things."

In brief

Connection issue: Fort Wayne batters had trouble connecting against Wisconsin on Tuesday. The TinCaps struck out 16 times in a 5-2 defeat. Right-hander Trey Supak led the Timber Rattlers with 11 strikeouts. Daniel Brown fanned three batters, and Aaron Myers added two strikeouts. Fort Wayne leads the Midwest League in strikeouts. TinCaps batters have struck out 359 times, 48 more than the next team.

Drought ends: Lake County relied on former Ohio State star Tanner Tully to wrap up its first series victory in three weeks, earning the win against Quad Cities, 3-1, on Sunday and ending a string of four straight series losses. A key for the Captains was not giving up the long ball. Lake County didn't allow a homer during the three-game set, even though the River Bandits lead Minor League Baseball with 37 long balls. No other team in the Midwest League has held the River Bandits homerless so far. The Captains hit three roundtrippers in the series, two by Emmanuel Tapia and one by Luke Wakamatsu, who went deep for the first time since 2015.

Marathon to sprint: South Bend and Clinton battled for 19 innings in a game suspended by the Midwest League curfew rule, and then, in the nine-inning followup, needed only two hours and 36 minutes in a 3-2 Cubs' win. The 19-inning game, won by South Bend, 7-6, went five hours and 32 minutes. The marathon contest had 14 different pitchers take the mound between the two teams.

Curt Rallo is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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