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Cruz For Pratt

The Cubs finally gave up on Juan Cruz today, trading him to the Atlanta Braves for lefty Andy Pratt.

There were two others involved, infielder Richard Lewis coming to the Cubs and lefty Steve Smyth going to Atlanta, but Smyth had long ago ceased to mean anything to the Cubs and Lewis is a "future".

Frankly, this is a terrific deal. I don't think Cruz had the stamina or head on his shoulders to become the future starting star that we thought the Cubs had in him three years ago, and the starts he made here in Arizona did nothing to take away that perception.

Pratt is 24, led the International League in strikeouts last year, and is left-handed, which automatically gives him a leg up, in the NL Central where there has been a dearth of quality lefty starters for the last couple of years.

In the near future, Pratt will probably be asked to fill Mark Prior's starting slot till Prior is ready. After that, he's got a really good shot at remaining in the 2004 bullpen, and then will likely get an opportunity for a fulltime starter's role in 2005.

Given the current Cub rotation, Matt Clement should start tomorrow vs. the Rangers; Greg Maddux Saturday in Peoria against the Padres, Carlos Zambrano Sunday vs. the A's at Mesa, and Pratt on Monday in Tempe, thrown right in against a tough offensive team in the Angels.

Good luck to Andy Pratt. I'm rooting hard for you.