NORMAL — Ryan Lawlor became the third Normal CornBelters pitcher this season to have his contract purchased by a major league organization Sunday, accepting a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs.
"I'm ecstatic right now to find out I'm getting another chance," said Lawlor, who will report to South Bend of the Class A Midwest League. "That's the reason I came here. I thought I deserved to be at that level."
Lawlor, who was cut by the Atlanta Braves in March after advancing to the high Class A level, posted a deceiving 0-2 record and 3.15 ERA in 20 innings with Normal. The left-hander allowed just 13 hits, struck out 31 and and walked five.
"I've been talking to the Cubs for a couple weeks about Ryan. They finally called me and pulled the trigger," Normal manager Billy Horn said. "That's why we're here, why we're in this business, to help these guys and give them a second chance or first chance with an organization."
Lawlor joins fellow left-handers Scott Sebald (Miami) and Matt Portland (Chicago White Sox) as Normal pitchers now in the minors. The Belters receive $5,000 from a major league team that purchases the contract of one of their players.
"Billy's got a great reputation. I couldn't ask for more," Lawlor said. "He was pushing my name, and he's got really good connections with those teams."
Lawlor was dealing with an injury when the Braves released him in early March.
"First and foremost, I needed to get healthy at home," said Lawlor. "As soon as I had a chance to pitch at the level I thought was going to get me out of here, I came to Billy and told him I was ready to go. I picked up where I left off last year."
Horn is again searching for another starter.
"We'll be fine. I'm deciding who I want to bring in," he said. "I'm looking for a guy who can eat innings, six or seven innings (per start)."
Canseco weekend ends
Former major league slugger Jose Canseco struck out swinging for the third straight evening (all on 2-2 pitches) as Canseco's weekend stint with the Belters ended in a 13-2 Normal loss.
"It was tough. Three at-bats, having a bad knee, being 54 and not playing forever, I expected that," said Canseco. "The pitching is pretty good. Those kids were throwing hard. I did the best I can. The eyesight and reaction time isn't there."
The 54-year-old Canseco, who warned before Friday's game he expected to be dominated by pitchers less than half his age, did display some prodigious power before Sunday's contest.
An elite level slowpitch softball player, Canseco rocketed at least 10 softballs over the fence beyond the left-field berm and completely out of the Corn Crib confines.
"The only thing that came up positive was hitting softballs over 500 feet," Canseco said with a laugh. "That was a lot of fun."
Minor injury for Vega
Belters third baseman Sammy Vega left Saturday's win over Florence after falling awkwardly on his shoulder while diving for a ground ball.
Vega did not play Sunday, but Horn expects him back in the lineup Tuesday at Joliet.
Horn also anticipates catcher Tanner Lubach (illness) and outfielder Nick Cain (oblique) to return to duty Tuesday.
Freedom rings up win
Florence scored three runs in the first inning and seven in the second to put the Belters away early.
Normal starter David Perez was tagged for eight runs (seven earned) in one-plus innings. He walked three, hit two batters and had a throwing error.
The Belters capped a six-game homestand at 3-3. Normal scored its runs in the seventh on an Andrew Godbold solo homer and Cody Erickson's RBI single.