Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010
By Patrick Mooney
MILWAUKEE Xavier Nady rejoined the New York Yankees during last years postseason run, celebrated their 27th World Series title and rode up Broadway during the championship parade.
After rehabilitating his right elbow in California, Nady was at once a part of and separate from the team. And on some level its been like that with the Cubs, not fully integrated.
Thats not to say that Nady sulks or keeps to himself. He is a positive clubhouse presence, and well-liked by teammates. But since he signed a one-year deal in January, hes had to place percentages on how his arm feels, and measure the distance he can throw in long toss.
Until recently, its been a struggle to find to find regular at-bats. Hes averaged about 10 per week, and quoted that number off the top of his head.
I knew it was going to be a long year, Nady said. I just didnt know to what extent. You try to be optimistic and come back and be Superman after two Tommy John (surgeries). Its not ideal, not realistic. (You) just try to finish strong.
Gradually, Nady is restoring his value. August was his strongest month by far as a Cub he hit .320 with a .386 on-base percentage in 22 games and the deadline to be eligible for a postseason roster passed without him being dealt to his sixth team in the past six years.
And when Derrek Lee decided to approve a trade to the Atlanta Braves, it opened a spot for Nady at first base. Nows the chance to show hes still the middle-of-the-order hitter who generated 25 homers and 97 RBI in 2008.
You dont know how an arm injury effects a guy, manager Mike Quade. You can take a year off and come back and maybe make some pitches or maybe play defense. But swinging the bats a little different deal.
He looks way more comfortable and were all watching the same guy now that he was earlier. (Its) just getting back into what hes done for his career.
Quade described Nadys defensive play at first base as excellent, one reason why the manager still has no immediate plans to use Tyler Colvin there during a game. Its unclear what the organizations long-term answer will be at that position.
Nady, who will turn 32 in November, didnt worry about it when his name was mentioned in trade rumors throughout the summer. He certainly isnt anxious about free agency.
Nadys agent, Scott Boras, is one of the most powerful men in baseball. Coming off elbow-reconstruction surgery, Nady still got 3.3 million guaranteed, plus performance bonuses, after only seven games and 28 at-bats with the Yankees last season.
So Nady enjoys playing in Chicago and the Cubs might need a first baseman, but there are many moving parts to any deal.
Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Carlos Pena and Lee are among the first basemen approaching free agency. Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez could all hit the market after the 2011 season. Teams will have options.
Nady also figures to market himself as an outfielder. He will have the entire winter to build up his arm strength. He thinks hell be physically able to play the outfield five or six times per week. By Opening Day 2011, he will be 21 months removed from his second Tommy John procedure.
But with three weeks left in the season, thats not where Nadys focus is at. He needs consistent playing time to get his timing down and be comfortable with his leg kick at the plate. A player who woke up Sunday morning batting .253 with six home runs and 30 RBI no longer feels like he has to make up for it all at once.
(Now) you dont put a ton of pressure on yourself to get that one start and try to get three or four hits to prove yourself again, Nady said. Ive always believed in myself. (I) still feel like once I get healthy, and start playing every day, that everything will work out.
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.