Nady will wait to see what future holds

Nady will wait to see what future holds

Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010
3:31 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE Xavier Nady rejoined the New York Yankees during last years postseason run, celebrated their 27th World Series title and rode up Broadway during the championship parade.

After rehabilitating his right elbow in California, Nady was at once a part of and separate from the team. And on some level its been like that with the Cubs, not fully integrated.

Thats not to say that Nady sulks or keeps to himself. He is a positive clubhouse presence, and well-liked by teammates. But since he signed a one-year deal in January, hes had to place percentages on how his arm feels, and measure the distance he can throw in long toss.

Until recently, its been a struggle to find to find regular at-bats. Hes averaged about 10 per week, and quoted that number off the top of his head.

I knew it was going to be a long year, Nady said. I just didnt know to what extent. You try to be optimistic and come back and be Superman after two Tommy John (surgeries). Its not ideal, not realistic. (You) just try to finish strong.

Gradually, Nady is restoring his value. August was his strongest month by far as a Cub he hit .320 with a .386 on-base percentage in 22 games and the deadline to be eligible for a postseason roster passed without him being dealt to his sixth team in the past six years.

And when Derrek Lee decided to approve a trade to the Atlanta Braves, it opened a spot for Nady at first base. Nows the chance to show hes still the middle-of-the-order hitter who generated 25 homers and 97 RBI in 2008.

You dont know how an arm injury effects a guy, manager Mike Quade. You can take a year off and come back and maybe make some pitches or maybe play defense. But swinging the bats a little different deal.

He looks way more comfortable and were all watching the same guy now that he was earlier. (Its) just getting back into what hes done for his career.

Quade described Nadys defensive play at first base as excellent, one reason why the manager still has no immediate plans to use Tyler Colvin there during a game. Its unclear what the organizations long-term answer will be at that position.

Nady, who will turn 32 in November, didnt worry about it when his name was mentioned in trade rumors throughout the summer. He certainly isnt anxious about free agency.

Nadys agent, Scott Boras, is one of the most powerful men in baseball. Coming off elbow-reconstruction surgery, Nady still got 3.3 million guaranteed, plus performance bonuses, after only seven games and 28 at-bats with the Yankees last season.

So Nady enjoys playing in Chicago and the Cubs might need a first baseman, but there are many moving parts to any deal.

Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Carlos Pena and Lee are among the first basemen approaching free agency. Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez could all hit the market after the 2011 season. Teams will have options.

Nady also figures to market himself as an outfielder. He will have the entire winter to build up his arm strength. He thinks hell be physically able to play the outfield five or six times per week. By Opening Day 2011, he will be 21 months removed from his second Tommy John procedure.

But with three weeks left in the season, thats not where Nadys focus is at. He needs consistent playing time to get his timing down and be comfortable with his leg kick at the plate. A player who woke up Sunday morning batting .253 with six home runs and 30 RBI no longer feels like he has to make up for it all at once.

(Now) you dont put a ton of pressure on yourself to get that one start and try to get three or four hits to prove yourself again, Nady said. Ive always believed in myself. (I) still feel like once I get healthy, and start playing every day, that everything will work out.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Joe Maddon's T-shirt slogans can get a little old at times, but the Cubs manager found a new audience in Brett Anderson, who liked the idea of "Be Uncomfortable" after signing a one-year, prove-it deal with the defending champs.

"It's been awesome so far," Anderson said. "That's my running joke – we're a month into it now or whatever it is – and I don't hate anybody yet.

"That's a testament to the group as a whole – and maybe me evolving as a person."

Yes, Anderson's sarcasm, social-media presence and groundball style fits in with a team built around short-term pitching and Gold Glove defense. The if-healthy lefty finished his Cactus League tour on Saturday afternoon by throwing four innings (one unearned run) during a 7-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies in front of 13,565 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Anderson will open the season as the No. 4 starter after a camp that has been remarkably low-key and drama-free.

"I'm kind of cynical by nature, but it's a fun group to be a part of," Anderson said, "(with) young guys that are exciting and happy to be here. And then obviously the mix of veterans, too, that are here with intentions of winning another World Series."

To make that happen, the pitching staff will have to again stay unbelievably healthy. Anderson rolled with a general question about how he physically feels now compared to where he's usually at by this time of year.

"Obviously better than last year, because I was walking with a gimp and all that stuff," said Anderson, who underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a bulging disk in his lower back last March. "No, my body feels good, my arm feels good and you're getting into the dog days of spring training where you're itching to get to the real thing."

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

MESA, Ariz. – Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella appears to be the final decision as the Cubs shape their Opening Night roster.

That's assuming good health – manager Joe Maddon sounded unconcerned about Ben Zobrist (stiff neck), Addison Russell (stiff back) and Albert Almora Jr. (stiff neck) – and the Cubs carrying an eight-man bullpen.

Maddon appeared to eliminate one variable, confirming that La Stella has signaled a willingness to go to Triple-A Iowa if necessary, which would normally be an obvious statement, except for last summer's "Where's Tommy?" episode.

"I haven't even thought about it," Maddon said during Saturday's media session at the Sloan Park complex. "It's not an issue. I thought we handled it pretty openly last year and there's been no blowback whatsoever from the players."

Beyond this – La Stella initially refused to report to the minors last July, moved back home to New Jersey and talked briefly about retirement – an American League scout and a National League scout tracking the Cubs in Arizona both agreed that Szczur looks like the superior player.

Plus Szczur – and not La Stella – is out of minor-league options now.

"When you get this kind of a talent, depth-wise, it's a wonderful problem to have," Maddon said. "And then, of course, the rules start creeping in. The rules in this situation would benefit Matt, which is a good thing, because he's a big-league guy that's been riding the shuttle. He's done it in a very stoic manner, and he's been great for us."

La Stella has allies in the clubhouse – Jake Arrieta got a Coastal Carolina tattoo on his right butt cheek after losing a College World Series bet – and goes about his routine in a quiet, diligent manner.

La Stella is not a distraction at all and can hit left-handed and play the infield – two attributes that Szczur can't bring to Maddon's bench.

"Matt Szczur, to me, is a Major League Baseball player," Maddon said. "You're seeing what Tommy can do from the left side of the plate right now. And then it's just a matter of balancing things out. We've already mentioned that some guys on the infield can play the outfield within this group, thus it presents differently regarding what you need."

[MORE CUBS: Javier Baez won’t change his style around Cubs after World Baseball Classic: ‘We’re not showing anybody up’]

Szczur is hitting .361 with a .994 OPS through 14 Cactus League games and can play all over the outfield. But that skill is diminished when the Cubs already have four established outfielders plus Zobrist and Kris Bryant able to shift from the infield.

Then again, defensive wizard Javier Baez should have the Cubs covered all across the infield in case of an emergency. With the defending World Series champs a week out from facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, we're about to find out if Maddon made his recommendation or had a possible trade scenario or disabled-list situation in mind.

"I love Matt Szczur," Maddon said. "This guy as a teammate – you're not going to get a better one. Nobody's going to get a better one on any team for any reason.

"We haven't decided everything or anything yet. Stuff happens in a very short period of time. He is a major-league baseball player. So we'll just wait a couple more days, see how it plays out. But he's a benefit to any group that has him."