JOHN MAFFEI - email@example.com | Posted: Saturday, August 29, 2009 11:10 pm
Cory Luebke wasn't even one of Baseball America's top-30 Padres prospects when the 2009 season opened.
And there is no reason that the left-handed pitcher should have been after going 3-6 with a 6.84 ERA in 17 appearances with Single-A Lake Elsinore last season.
But Luebke, a supplemental first-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 2007, has turned it around this season.
He was 8-2 with a 2.34 ERA at Lake Elsinore before earning a promotion to Double-A San Antonio. And he was nearly as good with the Missions, going 3-2 with a 2.58 ERA. In 38 1/3 innings, he walked just 12 and had 30 strikeouts.
But he won't finish the season with San Antonio. On Tuesday, he'll be in Cary, N.C., joining Team USA for the IBAF World Cup tournament that starts Sept. 10. Team USA, the defending champion, draws Venezuela in the first round in Regensburg, Germany, in a pool that also includes China and Germany.
The gold medal game is Sept. 27 in Rome.
"Cory Luebke was something special when he was with us," Lake Elsinore manager Carlos Lezcano said. "He has great stuff, great command and great composure.
"Honestly, you can see this kid making it to the big leagues. You can't say that about every player, but I think you can say it about Cory."
Luebke's arsenal includes a fastball that averages in the low 90s and reaches 94. His slider is considered a plus pitch by scouts, and his changeup ---- a must pitch for Padres pitchers ---- is said to be improving.
"He has great late movement in the strike zone on his (sinker)," one scout said. "If he gets to the big leagues, that's the pitch that will get him there."
Padres officials would have liked to send Luebke to the Arizona Fall League, but they consider the World Cup experience invaluable. Other first-round draft picks on Team USA are Pedro Alvarez (Pirates), Jason Castro (Astros), Ike Davis (Mets), Josh Kroeger (White Sox), Trevour Plouffe (Twins) and Justin Smoak (Rangers).