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MLBeat: Changes ahead for 2003
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09/22/2002 1:24 pm ET 
MLBeat: Changes ahead for 2003
By Jonathan Mayo /

PITTSBURGH -- General manager Jim Hendry and team president Andy MacPhail haven't been able to meet in person much this season to talk about the direction they'd like to take the Cubs in 2003.

With MacPhail spending a lot of time consumed with labor negotiations in New York, he also hadn't been able to see the team in person much, relying on game reports over the phone from Hendry. MacPhail came to Pittsburgh on Saturday to watch his club, perhaps see Sammy Sosa belt No. 500, and of course, be able to chat in person with his general manager.

"We talked more than you'd think [when he was in New York]," Hendry said. "He had a lot on his plate, but we'd talk at night before he went to bed."

The dish may have changed, but MacPhail's plate isn't any cleaner. He and Hendry have plenty of decisions to make heading into next year as there will likely be considerable pressure to turn things around after a lost 2002. Hendry and MacPhail began planning for the 2003 season a while ago, but now that both will be in Chicago together for the final week of the season, they can focus a little more on the task at hand.

"He's a terrific guy to spin stuff off of," Hendry said of MacPhail. "He's done just about everything in this game."

The first priority for the tandem will likely be to decide who will manage the team next season. Bruce Kimm is still wearing the interim tag, and all signs point to Hendry and MacPhail likely going elsewhere to pick a manager, although Kimm has not been eliminated from consideration.

After that, Hendry realized they'll need to address the bullpen, third base, and maybe adding a lefty to the rotaton.

"There are a lot of priorities with the kind of season we've had," Hendry said. "But the bullpen will be our primary focus, as well as manager."

Hendry would love to find a left-hander to add to the all-righty rotation. Finding someone to complement Mark Prior, Matt Clement and Kerry Wood, all hard-throwing righties, would provide some balance to an already-strong rotation.

Don't expect the Cubs to go head-over-heels in that pursuit, however. It seems unlikely they'd trade for Rockies starter Mike Hampton, as has been rumored, largely because of his large salary and the risk of Hampton not returning to his pre-Rockies form. But Hendry, who would not comment on Hampton since he still is under contract by another team, said they will keep their eyes and ears open this offseason.

"We'll take a look at the free agents," Hendry said about a class of lefties that will be headed by Braves starter Tom Glavine and the Cardinals' Chuck Finley and could include starters such as Shawn Estes. "We also have a strong farm system. I wouldn't be opposed to trading from the farm system to acquire the right lefty [if he's out there]."

Getting a breather: Usually when a player gets some time to regroup, it consists of a day off. For struggling center fielder Corey Patterson, it's been most of a weekend.

Patterson has not been in the starting lineup for any of the Cubs' three games this weekend in Pittsburgh. He did have a key pinch-hit double in Saturday night's 4-2 victory, but Kimm wanted to give his young outfielder a long time to collect himself.

"I wanted to give Corey a good breather," Kimm said. "He's responded well off the bench, not that Corey will ever be a bench player."

Patterson is just 17-for-96 over his last 27 games, and has gone 9-for-33 on this road trip, including a five-strikeout night in his last start Thursday in New York.

"You could come up with a number of reasons [why he's struggling]," Kimm said. "Sometimes it's good to sit back. The full season is a grind. Who knows, maybe this will help his strength. He'll be back in there when we get back to Chicago."

Home town heroes: Both Kevin Orie and Chad Hermansen were in the Cubs' starting lineup Sunday, and both were there at least partially because of their ties to Pittsburgh.

Orie originally hails from nearby West Chester, Pa., and has started all three games of this series. It doesn't hurt that he has hit .375 since being called up Sept. 4, including going 7-for-19 on the road trip.

"He's played well. I like to see him in a Major League atmosphere," Kimm said. "He always played well for me in the Minor Leagues.

"It makes sense. He's at home here, and he's played pretty good ball."

Hermansen spent his entire professional career in the Pirates' organization until getting traded to the Cubs on July 31. At the start of the series, Hermansen said it was strange being back here in a different uniform. Kimm wanted to give him a start for that reason, combined with the fact Roosevelt Brown hurt his ankle a little on Saturday, and Patterson is being given the aforementioned long breather.

Fantasy Edge: Desperate for a starter in the final week of the season? You can try Pat Mahomes. Mahomes, who gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings Saturday, has earned another start, according to Kimm. With the Cubs hosting the Mets and Pirates to close out the season, he could give you a similar type of outing.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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