Taking a small risk, Cubs closing in on Chang-Yong Lim

962481.png

Taking a small risk, Cubs closing in on Chang-Yong Lim

The Cubs continue to make investments in the international market and take chances on pitchers recovering from injuries.

Chang-Yong Lim spoke with reporters on Thursday at Incheon International Airport outside Seoul, South Korea, indicating he had a deal that could be worth 5 million over two years.

The Cubs have not commented on the reports, though sources said the money has been overstated, cautioning that if they close the deal, it would be a two-year minor-league contract that contains only a small amount guaranteed. It would not come with a spot on the 40-man roster.

MORE: The story behind the Cubs drafting 49ers QB Kaepernick

For the Cubs, this is a play for 2014 as Lim recovers from elbow surgery. But that appears to be part of their broader strategy, collecting players who may be undervalued because of health concerns.

Im happy that my dream has finally come true, Lim said, according to Reuters. Im not young anymore and I wanted to do something that Ive never experienced before.

Lim who will turn 37 in June pitched seven scoreless innings for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows last season before shutting it down. He had notched 128 saves across the previous four seasons combined.

Going off Lims career numbers in Japan a 2.09 ERA with 231 strikeouts against 68 walks in 233 innings he profiles as the type of pitcher this front office values, someone who can control the zone and follow the game plan.

Lim a 5-foot-11, 175-pound right-hander pitched for Korea in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He earned a bronze medal with South Korea at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

This comes one week after introducing Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa with a press conferencephoto shoot at Wrigley Field.

MORE: Cubs waiting to put Fujikawa in the spotlight

Between Lim and Fujikawa, the Cubs could have some interesting options at the back end of their bullpen by 2014. Theyre also reportedly among the teams pursuing veteran reliever Mike Adams, though their interest level is unclear. They were prepared to lose out on Jason Grilli, another bullpen arm who this week agreed to return to the Pittsburgh Pirates on a two-year, 6.75 million deal.

For now, Carlos Marmol is penciled in as the Opening Day closer, as Fujikawa gets acclimated to his new surroundings. On this level, Lim will fit in, if only because hell be on rehab assignments.

Last week, the Cubs took Hector Rondon with the second pick in the Rule 5 draft, hoping he could recapture the form that made him a good pitching prospect with the Cleveland Indians before elbow injuries wiped out most of his past three seasons.

Last month, the Cubs gave Scott Baker 5.5 million, plus incentives, on a one-year deal, even though he didnt throw a pitch for the Minnesota Twins last season, believing he will come back strong from Tommy John surgery.

MORE: Cubs' offseason moves just beginning

Last summer, the Cubs made Arodys Vizcaino the centerpiece of a trade deadline deal with the Atlanta Braves, flipping Paul Maholm for a prospect recovering from the Tommy John procedure, with the expectation he could join the big-league rotation at some point in 2013.

This is a creative way to address the problem team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have been staring at since taking over at Clark and Addison more than a year ago: Not enough pitching.

Wake-up Call: Comeback Cubs; White Sox lose eighth straight game

Wake-up Call: Comeback Cubs; White Sox lose eighth straight game

Kris Bryant ignites World Series nostalgia with Cubs' epic eighth-inning comeback

White Sox manager Rick Renteria 'surprised' Melky Cabrera hasn't been traded

Familiar problems for Fire in loss at New York City FC

After losing uncle, emotional Jon Lester pays tribute with Notre Dame rallying cry

Royals think White Sox have done 'phenomenal job' acquiring young talent

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

With Kyle Hendricks back in the mix, Cubs set rotation for Crosstown series with White Sox

What White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson is doing to combat second-year struggles

Blackhawks: Tommy Wingels fractures foot, will be ready for training camp

Freak of nature: Kris Bryant wows again with insane healing ability

Kris Bryant ignites World Series nostalgia with Cubs' epic eighth-inning comeback

Kris Bryant ignites World Series nostalgia with Cubs' epic eighth-inning comeback

“Reminded me a lot of a play in the World Series.”

Kris Bryant wasn’t the only one with World Series nostalgia Saturday afternoon at the Friendly Confines. The tens of thousands of Cubs fans losing their minds over the North Siders’ eighth-inning comeback made that very clear.

Bryant, though, was the one who provided it, first driving in the game-tying run mere moments after the visiting St. Louis Cardinals smashed open a pitchers duel with back-to-back homers off Jon Lester in the top of the eighth. Bryant then got a head starts and came around all the way from first, scoring the game-winning run on a ball Anthony Rizzo dumped into the left-center field gap so perfectly he couldn’t have thrown it there any better.

Bryant slid in — feet first — beating the throw home from ex-teammate Dexter Fowler. Cue the hysteria at Clark and Addison.

“Me, honestly, I was just trying to go up the middle. I think that’s kind of where I’ve been struggling this year is with guys on base I want to do too much. Just seeing through the middle. Bat broke and flew, I don’t know where it went, but it flew somewhere. That was huge,” Bryant explained after the game.

“And then obviously with Rizz having a good at-bat off a tough lefty. I don't know if Dexter or Tommy Pham got a good read or if they were way back at the track, but right when he hit it I didn’t see them anywhere close to it so I thought there was a pretty good chance that I could score.”

Bryant’s very presence in the Cubs’ starting lineup was the headline before the game, the “freak of nature” returning from a jammed finger after missing only one game. So of course it was the reigning National League MVP who played the biggest role, flipping the script from his sick day by being right in the middle of the Cubs’ eighth-inning explosion. It was the eighth inning where the Cardinals staged their game-defining rally Friday.

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Manager Joe Maddon went as far as saying that perhaps only Bryant could have made the play he did, scoring from first base on what went down as a Rizzo double.

“KB being able to play was the difference in today’s game,” Maddon said. “A combination of the hit and his speed. I don’t think anybody else scores on that. Maybe Jason (Heyward), possibly. (Ian) Happ, possibly. But KB is such a good base runner. He had it in his head the moment the ball was hit, and all (third base coach Gary) Jones had to do was wave his arm. You can’t underestimate the importance of one person in the lineup.

“He’s a very bright base runner. He’s shown that from the beginning. … He demonstrated that early on, and for me when a young player demonstrates awareness on the bases, man, that’s a good baseball player.”

All that talent made Bryant last season’s Most Valuable Player and one of the most important figures in the curse-breaking World Series championship.

Bryant mentioned he thought Saturday’s game-winning trip from first to home conjured memories of a similar play in Game 7 of last fall’s World Series, when Bryant went first to home on Rizzo’s base hit off Andrew Miller in the fifth inning.

“Reminded me a lot of a play in the World Series off of Andrew Miller. It was a full count there, started early,” Bryant said. “Rizz hit it, you’ve got to give him a ton of credit, worked a great at-bat. But the head start really does help. It's something that I take pride in is my base running, surprising people. Hopefully I did that today.”

With Bryant back in the lineup Saturday, Kyle Hendricks’ return to the rotation coming Monday, a now 7-1 record since the All-Star break and a bunched-up NL Central that had four teams within three and a half games of each other entering Saturday’s action, it’s no wonder the World Series feeling is making its way back to the North Side.

All season long, fans and observers have been waiting for that switch to flip, and maybe it finally has.

The bats were thunderous on that six-game road trip out of the All-Star break, with 16 home runs helping the Cubs to back-to-back sweeps of the Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves. Friday’s loss to the Cardinals provided plenty of evidence that the rest of the season might feature a knock-down, drag-out slugfest between the four NL Central contenders. All that was missing was a game that got Wrigleyville rocking.

“Probably one of our better wins of the year,” Bryant said.

That’s all without even mentioning the efforts of Lester, who was perfect until Adam Wainwright’s single in the top of the sixth. It was another stellar effort from a Cubs starting pitcher, and what was the team’s biggest problem during that sub-.500 first half — inconsistent starting pitching — certainly seems to be ironed out.

While the standings say it’s still going to be a brawl to the end with the Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cubs could be in a first-place tie by the end of Saturday night.

In other words, the race is on. And Bryant and the Cubs are clicking at the right time.

“It’s already Jaugust,” Maddon joked, inventing a new month out of thin air. “There’s no waiting around right now. Everybody feels the same way. We took advantage of the break, I believe. We came back with renewed energy. You don’t want to give up anything right now.”