10/03/2003 9:00 PM ET
Cunnane back on his feet
CHICAGO -- At first glance, Will Cunnane seems like an unlikely fellow to appear at a playoff news conference. He has thrown 261 2/3 innings over seven Major League seasons with four different organizations. He didn't appear in the first two games of the National League Division Series between the Braves and the Cubs.
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Cunnane is about as anonymous as big-league ballplayers get. Recently, he was misidentified in a newspaper story as a rookie. Yet on Friday at Wrigley Field, reporters were quite eager to hear the journeyman right-hander's story.
It's a pretty good story.
The short version, the one that was publicly known before Friday, went as follows. ... In May of this year, Cunnane was pitching for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. He suffered a broken hand in May, was released, and signed with the Braves in July. He enjoyed a strong last seven weeks of the season, earning him a spot on the postseason roster. Now he's back in Chicago, where he made 16 appearances last season.
The long version? That's a little more interesting.
"I have a lot of pride in my ability to field, and I made an error on a bunt," he said. "I was pitching. I went into the bathroom, and I think the thing was made out of titanium -- I hit a paper towel dispenser. Usually they break in one blow, but it didn't budge. I had to pitch the next inning with it. Luckily, I got out of there.
"I went to the training room -- and this was after the game, about an hour. I went to the trainer. He didn't know, I guess. I went there. I said, 'What would you tell somebody that broke their hand if they wanted to heal better?' He said, 'Go get an X-ray, see the doctor.' I said, 'What would you tell somebody who didn't want to do that?' He said, 'Still go get that X-ray and see the doctor.' I said, 'How did you know I broke my hand?' He said, 'The noise that came out of that bathroom, without you having brought a bat in there, we knew something was wrong.'
"They told me it would take three months total and such. So, a couple days went by after that and they came up to me and they said, 'You threw a wrench into our plans.' They said I was supposed to be called up, and it came push to shove, and they had to do something. What I heard is there was another player in the minor league that did a similar thing, hurt their hand. I don't know who it was, but they said they had to kind of make a point of it, and I was an easy answer to that."
But Cunnane landed, as they say, on his feet. He was superb down the stretch for the Braves, with a 2.70 ERA, 20 strikeouts and six walks in 20 innings. Manager Bobby Cox has yet to get him in the game in the playoffs, but Cunnane has shown he can do the job in the Major Leagues.
And he's not surprised.
"I really did expect to be back here," he said. "I didn't know I would be in another uniform and at this time of the year. It was unfortunate the way things happen. I broke my hand. It was my fault. I did something stupid. I understand that. It's business. I understand why they let me go. It worked out for the best I think. It was time off for me and it gave me time to recuperate and understand myself. I became a pitcher afterwards."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.