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Fife's whirlwind journey lands him in Cubs camp

Righty went from Majors to bartending to Venezuelan league to non-roster invitee
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- It's been a little crazy for pitcher Stephen Fife.

"Big leagues to bartending in six months," Fife said. "Then I went back to pro ball, and here I stand. The game will find a way to humble you."

MESA, Ariz. -- It's been a little crazy for pitcher Stephen Fife.

"Big leagues to bartending in six months," Fife said. "Then I went back to pro ball, and here I stand. The game will find a way to humble you."

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Fife, 29, is a non-roster invitee in Cubs camp. He's reunited with the front office that drafted him in 2008 -- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, and player development director Jason McLeod, who were all on the Red Sox staff at that time. Fife also is lockered next to his former Minor League teammate, Anthony Rizzo, who also was drafted by Boston before being traded to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez deal.

How did Fife wind up in Mesa? The Red Sox dealt him to the Dodgers in July 2011 as part of a three-team deal, and the right-hander appeared in 17 big league games in 2012-13. He pitched in one game with the Dodgers in May 2014 and, in August that year, underwent Tommy John surgery.

The Dodgers then designated him for assignment to open a roster spot, and Fife was a six-year Minor League free agent without a job.

"Obviously, nobody wants to sign a guy who can't pitch," he said.

After rehabbing in Tempe, Ariz., he got back on the mound with Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League this winter and made eight starts, totaling 43 innings. Venezuelans are dealing with severe economic situations and it's tough to find items most Americans take for granted, such as deodorant and toothpaste.

"Their supermarkets aren't super," Fife said. "What they get in is very limited, so they have 'farmatodos,' which is like Walgreens. Whatever they get in a shipment is what they have in the stores.

"You can buy toilet paper, you can buy wipes, you could buy soap, you could buy toothpaste, but sometimes they were sold out. They definitely encourage you to bring the bare essentials."

The Zulia team did take care of the players. Fife said he was able to eat steak, chicken, fish, whatever he wanted.

He was in Venezuela for 55 days and estimates he spent $500. Fife felt safe, but also exercised caution.

"I didn't ever fear for my life," he said. "It was a very pleasant experience. If I had to go back and play winter ball again, I'd do so. They treated us really well, we stayed in nice places. It was good money and fun and I enjoyed my time there."

Marlins Triple-A pitching coach Derek Botehlo was one of Zulia's pitching coaches, and he helped Fife get back on track. The right-hander didn't know how much the Cubs scouted him, but said Epstein and Co. "know me as a person," and made him an offer. Chicago is looking for pitching depth, along with the other 29 big league teams.

"It's about who you know but more about who you can trust, and who has some stock in you," Fife said.

How did he ended up bartending? When Fife was suddenly out of work after he was designated for assignment, he needed to find work to collect workers compensation. So, he got a job at "The Melting Pot" in Phoenix.

"It's been a wild 12, 14 months," Fife said. "Twenty months ago I was in the big leagues, and six months later, I was bartending at 'The Melting Pot.'"

And, after a stop in Venezuela, he's hoping to get back to the big leagues.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Stephen Fife