CHICAGO – On the eve of the Cubs’ final game to cap a dismal season, Bryan LaHair wanted to go out with a bang.
Inspired after talking to his grandmother, who is battling cancer, LaHair was psyched for the season finale. Manager Dale Sveum gave most of his starters the day off against the Houston Astros, their final game in the National League, earning LaHair a rare start at first base, and he delivered.
LaHair’s solo homer tied the game in the second inning, but he saved his biggest hit for the ninth. His two-out, bases-loaded single set off a celebration as the Cubs pulled out a 5-4 walk-off win.
“To go through the adversity he’s had to go through this season after having a great start and the All-Star Game and then obviously losing a lot of playing time, it was a great finish to his year,” Sveum said.
The thrilling win doesn’t erase the Cubs’ 101 losses, but they can at least carry good vibes into an important offseason. LaHair’s future is one that is decidedly uncertain. He is a free agent, and after being demoted to a bench role after making the All-Star team, LaHair might not have a spot on the 2013 roster. However, he hopes to find a way to stay with the Cubs.
“Chicago is where I want to be,” LaHair said. “This is the team I want to play for. But if there’s other opportunities that are better for me, we decide that during the offseason. As far as right now, I’m walking out today as a Cub and we’ll see what happens from there.”
LaHair’s desires are likely unattainable with a projected starting outfield featuring Alfonso Soriano, Brett Jackson and David DeJesus, and his natural position, first base, is blocked by Anthony Rizzo. Unless LaHair is willing to accept a bench role, Wednesday represented his last game as a Cub.
LaHair finished his whirlwind season hitting .257 with 16 home runs and 40 RBIs in 129 games. He struggled with his meager playing time since the All-Star break, posting a .192 average, two homers and 10 RBIs.
“We had several conversations in [Sveum’s] office,” LaHair said. “He motivated me. We had a talk about looking toward the future and continuing to work hard and continuing to accept your roles. He told me that I had a bright future and he sees me doing really well.”
The Cubs didn’t wait long to focus on next season. Immediately after the win, Sveum dismissed third base coach Pat Listach. A decision has not yet been made regarding the future of interim hitting coach James Rowson.
Listach joined the organization in 2000 and spent 12 years with the Cubs. He served as the bench coach last year and also managed at Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. Second baseman Darwin Barney, a Gold Glove candidate, has often credited Listach for improving his defense.
“I believe in the direction the organization is going, I’m just not going to be a part of it, but I will be fine,” Listach said.
• Meghan Montemurro covers the White Sox and Cubs for Shaw Media. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org