Healthy Looper grateful for shot with Cubs

Healthy Looper grateful for shot with Cubs

Healthy Looper grateful for shot with Cubs
MESA, Ariz. -- Braden Looper told his wife he might be done pitching in the big leagues. He was prepared to retire after taking the 2010 season off. But Looper is in the Cubs' camp now, and battling for a spot on the pitching staff. And he's excited about it.

"I've had different phases of a career," Looper said Tuesday. "First, you're happy to be there. Then I was closing, won a couple World Series, then I started starting. When I started starting, I felt like I could enjoy the game more. I was able to sit back and watch it some and prepare for the games.

"Now, I feel I enjoy being here more than I normally would," he said. "I missed it. You miss hanging out with the guys, you miss a lot of things, you miss the competitive aspect of it. I think I've gone through these phases and I appreciate it more."

In 2009, he went 14-7 in 34 starts with the Brewers. He has pitched for the Cardinals, Marlins, Mets and Brewers, and now is a candidate for the Cubs' rotation. He told his agent the Cubs were the only team he would consider because he didn't want to uproot his family any more. They now live in the Chicago area and he has three children, ages 10, 8 and 3.

"I love baseball and it's important, but my family is more important," Looper said. "It had to be the right situation for me and my family."

Last summer, he did throw for the Cubs and was offered a spot on the Triple-A Iowa team. But Looper said that didn't feel right.

In 2009, he didn't feel right on the mound, either, as he battled a knee injury on his drive leg. He gutted it out but had to deal with pain with every pitch. Now, he's healthy, and reunited with pitching coach Mark Riggins, whom he knew in the Cardinals organization.

"Sometimes I think guys leave and you're just not sure [if you're done playing]," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "It's something lingering -- 'Gee, I wonder.' He'll get a chance to find out and he'll get a chance to do it with a club in his hometown. I think it's a great situation."