Dillon Maples gets his shot to inject 100 mph power into Cubs bullpen

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Friday morning was a busy one for the Cubs. They activated reliever Justin Grimm off the 10-day disabled list, recalled catcher Victor Caratini from Class AAA Iowa and welcomed veteran infielder Mike Freeman — at Iowa since signing with the Cubs on August 7 — into the fold.

Let’s see, anything else? Ah, yes — the Cubs also promoted Dillon Maples from Iowa, giving the 25-year old flame-throwing right-hander his first shot at the big leagues.

It’s a shot absolutely no one could’ve seen coming as recently as a year ago.

More players will come and go — mostly the former — as the team expands its roster in September, but none will have a more compelling baseball story than Maples, who was a 14th-round draft pick by the Cubs in 2011.

The story took a dark turn last summer when Maples — buried at Class A South Bend — made up his mind to bag his career. Five years as a professional, and Maples still hadn’t ascended to even the Class AA level. It didn’t matter that he had lightning in his arm; he wasn’t big-league material. Or so he’d decided when he called his dad, Tim, to deliver the news.

“I’d lost that passion,” he said, “lost that drive.”

Tim Maples was a second-round draft pick and a five-year pro who never made it out of the minor leagues. He urged his son to keep his dream alive.

Thursday night, Maples got to call his dad with some of the greatest news ever.

“It’s been a crazy year,” he said, “but I’m ready for this.”

Maples has had a breakthrough season, striking out 100 in 63 1/3 innings and getting his first experience at Class AA Tennessee and Class AAA Iowa. Opponents have hit a paltry .192 off Maples, whose hard slider and curveball have been wonderful complements to his sizzling 100 mph heater. The slider, especially, has been a put-away pitch.

“He has a special ability to spin the ball,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said.

The message to Maples from manager Joe Maddon was simple: Don’t change a thing.

“You’ve done a lot of good stuff to get here,” Maddon told him. “Don’t think you have to do anything differently by being here.”

Just being here is a quite a victory in itself.

Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com


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