Daily Herald
Heilman in the mix for starting job
Associated Press
Published: 3/1/2009 12:02 AM

MESA, Ariz. - Aaron Heilman was traded twice in the off-season. Now he's hoping to finally find a home in the Cubs' starting rotation.

The former New York Mets prospect pitched 2 scoreless innings Saturday in the Cubs' 13-0 win over the White Sox, perhaps giving manager Lou Piniella another reason to consider him for the back end of the front line.

Piniella said recently he'd like to see the right-hander in the seventh inning.

"Ultimately, it's the manager, pitching coach and general manager's decision as to how I fit into the puzzle," Heilman said. "It's a long spring and we will see how that plays out."

Heilman, a Chicago resident and Indiana native who grew up a Cubs fan, allowed 1 hit and struck out four before a record crowd at HoHoKam Park.

Heilman was the 18th overall pick in the 2001 draft but never realized his potential in New York, where he was 3-8 with a 5.21 ERA in 78 appearances last season - arguably the worst of his big-league career. He was traded to Seattle as part of a 12-player deal on Dec. 10, only to be moved to the Cubs six weeks later for infielder Ronny Cedeno and left-hander Garrett Olson.

"I'm just excited to have a good year again and help the club win a bunch of ballgames," Heilman said. "If that is in the pen, then that's fine, and if it is as a starter, that is even better."

Piniella said with Ted Lilly gone to the World Baseball Classic and Rich Harden's first spring training start more than a week away, Heilman has a chance to get a few more looks.

"Look, I am not averse to Heilman starting. I'm really not," Piniella said. "We are going to take the best rotation we can and the best bullpen we can."

Since making his debut with the Mets in 2003, Heilman is 5-13 in 25 starts - none since 2005 - with a 5.93 ERA. He's 17-20 overall with a 3.52 ERA in 280 appearances.

"I came into camp knowing I would get a chance," Heilman said. "My thoughts coming into spring training was to get myself back on track, pitching back to my potential. Hopefully I get a shot at a starter's job."

Heilman wasn't the only Cubs pitcher to throw well. Seven combined for the 6-hit shutout, including closer candidate Kevin Gregg and Rule 5 pickup Esmailin Caridid.

Brad Snyder had a grand slam during a 9-run seventh for the Cubs, who generated 14 hits.

The highlight for the White Sox was the debut of right-hander Jeff Marquez, acquired from the New York Yankees in the Nick Swisher trade. He was solid in his first start, pitching 2 hitless innings. The sinkerballer was struggling with his main pitch but got it done in his bid to be the fifth starter.

"I was a little anxious to get out there, pitching first time here with the White Sox, but I felt good," said Marquez, who struck out two and walked one. "Got out there and calmed down a little bit and ended up having a good day."