02/15/09 5:12 PM EST
Confident Stanton resurfaces with Cubs
Missing 2008 after being cut by Reds, lefty eyes relief role
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
That's where Mike Stanton comes in.
Stanton, 41, is a non-roster invitee in camp. He's been pitching in the big leagues since 1989, almost exclusively in relief. But the lefty didn't throw an inning in the Major Leagues last year. He was in the Cincinnati Reds' camp, expecting to be in the bullpen for the second straight year.
"I was not hurt," Stanton said Sunday about last year. "I walked in, it was the last day of spring, we were breaking camp that day and they let me go. That's it."
He isn't sure why. His numbers were "average," Stanton said, but they didn't include five innings he had thrown in Minor League spring games.
"I [asked why], but I really thought that it probably came from Dusty [Baker, Reds manager]," Stanton said. "I don't know for a fact. They just said, 'We're not going to need your services.' To say I was shocked would've been an understatement."
On the last day of Spring Training, every team has finalized its 25-man roster.
"There's no worse time to do it than the last day of spring," Stanton said.
He went home to New Jersey, but kept throwing until July, thinking some team might need a veteran left-handed reliever. Instead, he coached his son's team and hung out with his family.
"I was a little bitter the first couple of months," he said. "I did not watch a baseball game, not a Major League baseball game, all summer."
That was his choice. At some point, though, he started to miss the game.
"Over the summer, I started getting the itch again," he said. "More than anything else, I still feel like I can do this. I don't have as good a stuff as I did six or seven years ago, but there's no doubt in my mind that I can do this."
In 2007, he was 1-3 with a 5.93 ERA in 69 games. Stanton has a career 3.92 ERA in the big leagues, appearing in more than 1,000 games. He isn't ready to call it quits, although Stanton admits he did think about retiring.
"Early, after the Reds let me go, there was some thought, 'I don't need this, I don't need this frustration,'" he said. "Then your competitive juices start stirring again. It's hard to walk away. First, you don't get to do it on your own terms and you still think you have something in the tank. My numbers were a lot worse than I pitched."
In six of his games last season, he gave up 19 earned runs. That's six out of 69 games.
"The bulk of the work was a lot better than the numbers," he said.
In a perfect world, people would prefer to walk away on their own terms. Stanton has heard that.
"Even if it's not literally on my own terms, but if it's a situation you can accept," he said. "That's not the reason I'm here -- I'm here because I know I can still pitch and I know I can help this team get by the first round."
Cubs manager Lou Piniella isn't counting Stanton out of the equation.
"He told me yesterday he planned on battling for a job," Piniella said Sunday. "We'll give him the opportunity."
Stanton is confident.
"Hopefully, I'll throw the ball well enough and make the team, and we'll go from there," he said. "I know the situation. I also know I can do this."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.