Gorzelanny excited to pitch in hometown
Left-hander to start Tuesday in place of injured Lilly
MIAMI -- Tom Gorzelanny didn't have much time to catch his breath on Saturday. After negotiating airports and flight delays, he arrived at Land Shark Stadium about two hours before Saturday's game between the Cubs and Marlins, was fitted in his new uniform, and threw a bullpen session for his new pitching coach.
The Cubs acquired Gorzelanny on Thursday from the Pittsburgh Pirates along with another lefty pitcher, John Grabow, in exchange for three players. Grabow is on the Major League roster, and Lou Piniella didn't waste any time getting the reliever into a game. Grabow pitched one inning on Friday in the series opener.
Gorzelanny, who will wear No. 22, is on the Cubs' Minor League roster for now. He'll make his first start Tuesday against the Cincinnati Reds.
"I'm just grateful for the opportunity," he said. "If they want to bring me in and throw me right in the rotation, if they have enough confidence in me to go out there and do my job, that's all I want to do. I want to do my best and give everything I have and help this team reach the playoffs and obviously, win the World Series."
That's a White Sox fan talking. Gorzelanny grew up in Evergreen Park, Ill., but says now he's a diehard Cubs fan.
"He's from the Chicago area, so he's doubly excited about coming here," Piniella said of his newest lefty. "He's coming to a team that's in contention for the postseason and pitching basically in his home town."
But he grew up on the South Side.
"It's all right," Piniella said. "It doesn't make them all bad. He's a baseball fan. The White Sox are a good team and they're our neighbors in town."
Gorzelanny said his family quickly converted.
"Everybody was extremely excited to hear I was coming back home to play for the Cubs," he said. "It's definitely a good feeling."
At Triple-A Indianapolis, Gorzelanny was 4-3 with a 2.48 ERA in 15 starts. In his past five starts in July, he had a 1.11 ERA, giving up four earned runs over 32 1/3 innings. He walked nine and struck out 28 in that span. What's working?
"I got back to doing what I've always done," he said. "I'm not a guy who will back down from a hitter. I'll challenge a guy. I know my strengths. I'm back to that mentality where I can go out there and throw a pitch where I want it, feel confident with it, and can get guys out."
Grabow mentioned that Gorzelanny was finally healthy, and that was a key. He's battled elbow problems in the past, but did win 14 games in 2007 for the Pirates.
"I went through a lot last year," he said of a 6-9 season and 6.66 ERA in 21 starts with Pittsburgh. "It was just a struggle all season to get it back to where it was and it never came around. I had a good offseason to get it back together. This deep in the season, I've felt better than I have in the past. It's always a big thing for anybody, but especially this year for me."
As of now, Gorzelanny is scheduled to make three starts in place of Ted Lilly, who is on the disabled list because of inflammation in his left shoulder. Gorzelanny will start Tuesday, then Aug. 9 in Colorado, and either Aug. 14 or Aug. 15 against his old team, the Pirates.
"Lilly should be ready by the Pirates series [Aug. 14-16] or the series after that," Piniella said.
The left-hander will likely make at least one rehab assignment. The Cubs weren't able to do that with Ryan Dempster, who came off the DL on July 28, because they didn't have another starter available.
"Basically Dempster got his rehab assignment with us," Piniella said.
Lilly played catch Saturday. He also underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last Monday, a minor procedure to clean it out. On Saturday, he was doing exercises to strengthen his legs.
Meanwhile, Gorzelanny will get a chance to show the Cubs they made the right move.
"I'm very excited to be here and I'm ready to help this team get to the World Series and win it," he said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.