02/16/09 3:59 PM EST
Heilman has eye on Cubs' fifth spot
Recently acquired right-hander would like to return to starting role
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Heilman had spent his entire career with the New York Mets, who made him their first-round Draft pick in 2001. But on Dec. 10, he was traded by the Mets to the Mariners with five players for J.J. Putz, Sean Green and Jeremy Reed.
He attended Seattle's winter FanFest Jan. 23-24, got a great reception from the organization and searched for a place to live. Fortunately for Heilman, he didn't put a deposit down on an apartment.
On Jan. 28, he was traded by the Mariners to the Cubs for infielder Ronny Cedeno and left-handed pitcher Garrett Olson.
"It would've been a good experience and I would've had a lot of fun playing there," Heilman said Monday about pitching for Seattle. "It's kind of serendipitous. To live at home and play where you live in front of Chicago fans is going to be tremendous and I'm certainly looking forward to it."
Heilman, 30, was born in Logansport, Ind., and lives in Chicago in the offseason. He doesn't have to worry about finding somewhere to live during the season now.
The right-hander enters the Cubs' camp as a possible candidate for the vacant fifth spot in the rotation, although Sean Marshall appears to have the edge there. Heilman hasn't started since 2005 and hasn't been a regular in a rotation since 2004. Last year with the Mets, he was 3-8 with a 5.21 ERA in 78 games.
"I'd like to get back to starting," Heilman said. "There's a lot to be said for the routine. You know when you're going to pitch. You're not constantly on call every day. ... It's always difficult to manage your routine [as a reliever]. It's a constant kind of balancing act -- how much do I do, how little do I do. You have a certain routine [as a reliever] but it's never the same every day."
There are some pitchers who prefer the relief role because there's a chance they can get in a game every day.
"It certainly has its advantages," Heilman said. "You don't have to wait another four days before you get back out there. But at the same time, I had 75 or more appearances the last three years in a row. It's been almost an every-other-day thing.
"It's great to be a part of the team and contribute that much," he said. "I've been fortunate enough to stay healthy and go out there that many times."
The right-hander began his career as a starter, and he'd like to show this spring he can do it again. He'll be stretched out, along with Marshall, Chad Gaudin, Jeff Samardzija and Mitch Atkins as the Cubs consider their options for that fifth spot in the rotation. Heilman can't wait.
"I always liked the idea of going out there and finishing up a game, finishing what you start," Heilman said. "It happens a lot less in this day and age with the style of baseball that's played now but you still see guys do it. That was always the best part about starting for me was getting deep in the game."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.