Bryan LaHair looked at it this way: Hey, Im here. The Cubs first baseman could have been somewhere like Des Moines, Iowa, or Tacoma, Wash.
Those were two stops along the way for the 29-year-old LaHair, a 39th-round pick who had never before experienced Opening Day in the big leagues. If he was disappointed about sitting out with a nagging back issue, he hid it very well.
Ive been kind of preparing myself mentally over the last few days, LaHair said Thursday, just to be ready whenever Im ready. The most important thing is to not go backwards. Just keep going forward and keep getting better.
LaHair wasnt included in the flurry of moves the Cubs made for Opening Day: selecting the contracts of reliever Shawn Camp, infielder Blake DeWitt and Joe Mather; and optioning outfielder Tony Campana and pitcher Casey Coleman to Triple-A Iowa. The Tampa Bay Rays claimed left-hander John Gaub off waivers. Soon Rodrigo Lopez is expected to join the Cubs bullpen.
LaHair said the disabled list isnt an option, and he expects to be available this weekend against the Washington Nationals (Jeff Baker started in his absence). LaHair sat out the final four games in spring training with what was described as a bulging disc. He doesnt sound too concerned.
Ive been making huge gains each day, he said. Ill bet you 90 percent of the hitters in baseball have that.