Cubs add lefty Wright to bullpen mix
Longtime fan of North Siders excited to join relief corps
CHICAGO -- The Cubs added another left-handed reliever to the bullpen mix on Wednesday, agreeing to terms on a one-year contract with free agent Wesley Wright, who grew up a fan of the team.
Wright, 28, who was non-tendered by the Rays on Monday, still needs to pass a physical for the deal to be completed. He will reportedly receive $1.425 million for the 2014 season, and he will be under team control for '15 as well.
The lefty has fond memories of Wrigley Field. Wright picked up his first career win there, pitching in relief April 4, 2008, for the Astros, who had selected him in the 2007 Rule 5 Draft.
"I grew up watching Cubs games on WGN [TV] back in Alabama," Wright said Thursday. "My brother and I were huge Cubs fans. To get that victory there and do it on TV with my family watching was pretty cool."
Wright entered that game with a man on first and two outs in the seventh, and the score tied at 2. He got Felix Pie to ground out and end the inning, and the Astros scored two runs in the eighth. Wright was the pitcher of record and picked up the win.
Wright gave the game ball to his parents, and his mother still has it.
"My mom has most of my milestone things," Wright said. "She keeps a little memorabilia case at home. She has that ball."
Wright also had a day he'd rather forget at Wrigley in July 2009, when he was taken from the ballpark on a stretcher to a Chicago hospital to be treated for dehydration. The Astros originally thought he had appendicitis.
"That was not one of my favorite memories at Wrigley Field," Wright said.
On Thursday, Wright was looking ahead as he drove from Tampa, Fla., to his Alabama home to visit with family, still pumped from Auburn's win over the Crimson Tide on Saturday in the college football Iron Bowl. Wright is an Auburn fan and was at the game.
"I've been an Auburn fan since I can remember," he said. "It was a great weekend for me. It was a tremendous atmosphere. I've never seen such an intensity level between two fan bases. It's definitely something that, as a competitor, you love being part of the environment. It's something I won't ever forget."
Wright would like to have that kind of excitement with the Cubs. He posted a combined 3.69 ERA in 70 games for the Rays and Astros this past season, striking out 55 over 53 2/3 innings pitched. In his career, Wright has held left-handed hitters to a .231 average compared to .266 by right-handed batters.
The Cubs were looking for bullpen help, and especially another left-hander to help southpaw James Russell, who ranked 10th in the National League in games (74). Chicago is still shopping for a closer to replace Kevin Gregg, who is a free agent.
"Playing in Houston for the past six seasons and playing against the Cubs and watching from the other side, I saw how effective [Russell] has been in the bullpen and coming in and getting guys out," Wright said. "It was something that was attractive to me to be able to partner with someone who has been so successful and maybe share some of the work load and be a much better bullpen."
Wright knows Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson -- they were both in the Dodgers system -- and was looking forward to working with pitching coach Chris Bosio. The lefty wasn't surprised when the Rays decided to non-tender him.
"I actually knew it was a possibility because of the situation in Tampa with us having four left-handers in the bullpen," Wright said. "I knew a decision was going to have to be made. I was hoping it wasn't going to be me. When I got the news, it was kind of disappointing, but I had to regroup and move forward and find a home as soon as possible."
It didn't take long. Wright is well aware the Cubs are in a rebuilding mode.
"You're aware of the records and the standings and where they finished," he said, "but I've been part of that situation where guys are trying to rebuild and start over, and I also have been part of a situation last year when I got to go to Tampa of a team in the race and making it to the postseason. I understand both sides of it.
"It doesn't really change much about my job," Wright said. "My job is to go out and get outs and help us win games. Regardless of whether we're in a rebuilding situation or trying to make the postseason, I never put too much thought into where our team is or where we are in the standings. My job is to get outs and do the best I can."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.