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New Cubs enjoy change of scenery

Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 12:04 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 8:22 a.m. CDT
Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta pitches to the Milwaukee Brewers in the first inning in the second game of a day-night doubleheader Tuesday at Wrigley Field. (AP Photo/Charles Cherney)

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After the Los Angeles Dodgers sent reliever Matt Guerrier to the Cubs for Carlos Marmol on July 2, Guerrier embraced the opportunity that came with his new club.

“When I came here, I had an opportunity to pitch a little bit more,” the 34-year-old said. “It’s good, if things aren’t going the way you want to, to get a fresh start.”

Since moving to the Cubs, Guerrier, who struggled with the Dodgers, has sliced his ERA in half and improved his performance as a late-game reliever on all fronts. But, as one of the many new names on the slowly growing team, he isn’t alone.

Just this month, the Cubs have acquired 21 players. Those players are taking advantage of what they’ve been given: a new start on a dynamically changing ballclub, one whose general manager projects will be a World Series contender in a handful of years.

“You go in with a clean slate and an open mind to go forward and help the team win,” reliever Kevin Gregg said, “so that helps guys get a fresh start.”

Gregg, who’s now been with five major league teams, pitched for the Baltimore Orioles in the two seasons before the Cubs signed him in April. Then, his ERA floated in the 4s. This year, it’s decompressed to a sturdy 2.68.

Gregg thinks he’s improved because of the new location and after his quick transition to the clean setting.

“It just takes time,” he said. “You pretty much know everybody across the field anyways, so it makes an easy transition.”

The latest Cub to make the transition is right-hander Jake Arrieta, who made his first start with the Cubs on Tuesday night. Arrieta’s debut was favorable – he smothered Milwaukee in a two-hit no-decision – and part of that is because of the new team, he says.

“I think that was one of the biggest things because the ability, it’s always been there, I just think that it was time for a change,” said Arrieta, who left Baltimore and his 7.23 ERA in a trade earlier this month. “I was very, very happy with the trade and the opportunity to come over to this organization and be a part of a group of young guys, a lot of guys working hard to put together a championship team.”

When starting with a new ballclub, players have realized their chance to build from the ground, but with the Cubs, they also noticed a change in culture.

“I didn’t feel that [LA’s] staff had a lot of confidence in me, so I tried... to prove to them something that I didn’t have to,” Guerrier said. “When I came here, I felt that I was wanted and trusted to just go out there and do what I normally do.”

Nate Schierholtz, the Cubs’ right fielder, is in the midst of a career-best season after leaving the Giants in the offseason. He’s also noticed Chicago’s baseball culture and is thankful for the atmosphere in which he’s playing.

“I think there’s always the element where you want to show them what you can do especially when you come off the bench most of your career,” he said. “For me, it was getting comfortable here quick, which I was able to because there are a lot of great guys, good clubhouse, good coaching staff.”

Schierholtz could be one of the Cubs dealt by the deadline, which means he might have to start over, all over again. Nonetheless, he’s still thankful for his time in Chicago.

“They’ve treated me great [and] given me everything I could ask for as far as opportunities to play a lot,” he said. “I’m thankful for that, and I’m trying to make the most of my opportunity.”

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