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11/20/09 3:00 PM EST

Cubs ink Grabow to two-year deal

Veteran hurler will be team's top lefty setup man

CHICAGO -- John Grabow never really considered pitching for anyone else but the Cubs.

The left-handed reliever signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract on Friday, giving the Cubs a veteran arm in what is now a young bullpen.

"I pretty much let everyone know before I left [at the end of the season] that I wanted to come back," Grabow said Friday. "It's a good situation for me and my family and for the Cubs. They brought me in there, they made a trade to bring me there and I fit in right away.

"The atmosphere that's inside that clubhouse, everyone gets along pretty good and it's kind of a veteran team, and everybody goes about their business," he said. "I figured that's a pretty good situation for me."

Grabow, 31, lives in Arizona, and liked the idea of not having to pack up his family to go to Florida for Spring Training. He's also comfortable pitching in the National League Central.

"It was kind of a no-brainer," he said.

The Cubs acquired the reliever on July 30 from Pittsburgh along with Tom Gorzelanny, and Grabow appeared in 30 games, posting a 3.24 ERA with Chicago. He set a career high in appearances in 2009, pitching in 75 games total. He held left-handed hitters to a .222 average.

He did all that despite having bone chips in his elbow, which Grabow said he's learned to live with.

"I've had bone chips in my elbow probably for about three years now," he said. "It's something that if you look at a lot of pitchers, they're either going to have something going on in their shoulder or something in their elbow. ... It's something you learn to manage."

His 72 1/3 innings this season tied for third-most among left-handed relievers, and his career-high 23 holds ranked ninth among National League pitchers. He served up five home runs, the fewest in any of his six seasons.

The lefty will be called upon to set up Carlos Marmol, 27, who was the Cubs' prime eighth-inning pitcher the past two seasons. Marmol was handed the closer's job in August, taking over for Kevin Gregg.

Gregg, who still wants to be a closer, also is a free agent and is not expected to be re-signed by the Cubs. The team's other free agents include Rich Harden, Chad Fox and Reed Johnson.

Grabow is now the most experienced pitcher in the Cubs' pen. Besides Marmol, the list of relievers includes Angel Guzman, 27; Justin Berg, 25; Esmailin Caridad, 25; Sean Marshall, 27 and Jeff Stevens, 26. Grabow said he'll offer advice on how to prepare for everyday duty.

"You have to think of it as a family down in the bullpen," Grabow said. "You'll have some guys who are inexperienced and some guys who have some experience under their belt. We all have to stick together and we have each other's backs. That's the way it was when I was at Pittsburgh."

It's not just the physical grind that can wear a pitcher down.

"The baseball season will bring you down to your knees more than once every year," he said. "You have to be tough mentally. You're going to have your bad days, and you're just going to have to roll with it and have a quick memory. That's something I think I can help with the younger guys."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.