Big League Stew - MLB

MESA, Ariz. — I always enjoy receiving small reminders that the ballplayers we follow are more than just avatars for the ERA and OPS numbers we endlessly dissect.

It was therefore impossible for me not to smile a bit when Carlos Silva(notes) broke into a grin and told reporters Tuesday that he had good news to announce. His mother, Zulay, had just received a 10-year visa to come from Venezuela and live in the United States with Silva and his family.  

"That was a big headache the last couple years," Silva said after the Cubs' 4-1 exhibition win against Texas at HoHoKam Park. "She's been getting denied, denied, denied ... I think that's maybe why I was fired up."

Silva says he calls his mother before and after every start, and when he dialed her up after Tuesday's start against the Rangers, he told her that he hadn't felt that way on the mound in a long time. The Cubs' new right-hander threw four scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out three batters. Though he hit Nelson Cruz(notes) with a pitch in the first, he reported good command of his breaking ball and changeup. It was Silva's second straight solid start of the spring (try saying that 10 times fast) after debuting with six earned runs in two innings against the White Sox on March 6.

Tuesday's performance from Silva might have some pollyannas declaring he isn't the sunk cost from Seattle he was advertised to be. We probably should hold the jury on Silva until he makes a start where he's required to face more than 15 batters.

Still, it was nice to see Silva delay the scapegoating from Chicago he seems destined to inherit from Milton Bradley(notes). And because I tend to feel bad for mediocre players who can't live up to oversized contracts given to them by GMs who lack for judging talent — "The Paid Man's Burden," as R.J. Anderson calls it — there's a part of me rooting for Silva to finally start earning at least a little bit of that four-year, $48 million deal Bill Bavasi gave him with the Mariners before 2008.

Is there a good chance Silva will shed his scary stats from the past two seasons — a 5-18 record and a 6.81 ERA over 183 innings? Of course there isn't; he was a mediocre pitcher with the Twins who struck gold with a desperate GM who no longer has a job. 

But if you can comprehend that most ballplayers aren't intentionally signing contracts and then tanking it just to make you angry, it's not so hard to want them to do well and prove their worth. Like most of us, most ballplayers take pride in their work and take it hard when things don't go well.  

"The last two years haven't been easy for me," Silva said. "If you're going to start counting everything I was doing or was worried about, we're never going to end. It was a very tough two years on me. But this year is a fresh start, this is a new start, new team ... The only thing I have to do is do my work."

'Duk is in Arizona this week to finish Big League Stew's Desert Drive. Ride shotgun with him on Twitter — @bigleaguestew.  

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