Non-roster invitee Braden Looper does not intend to head to the minor leagues or another team if he doesn’t make the Chicago Cubs. And that’s not because he’s stubborn or prideful – he’s just decided that he’ll either play for the Cubs this year or he’ll go home and be with his family.
“Baseball’s extremely important to me, but my family’s more important,’’ said Looper, 36, who earned the victory in Sunday’s split-squad game against the Diamondbacks with 3 2/3 strong innings.
“Baseball’s a tough life, and I’ve got three kids, and I choose not to be away from my family. I just couldn’t do it anymore. They’ve done it for me for so long, I felt like it was time for me to make sure they had a stable environment and they were at home, and that’s why this is perfect.’’
A native Oklahoman, Looper relocated to the Chicago area, where his wife is from. And after making more than $25 million in his career, when Milwaukee bought out his 2010 option, he decided to start calling some very specific shots about where he was willing to play.
“It’s like you come here, you give it a shot, and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll go home,’’ he said.
No sign of that happening anytime soon.
“He threw the ball as well as has all spring,’’ said bench coach Pat Listach, the acting manager for Sunday’s game against the D-backs. “He’s keeping himself right in it with an outing like this.’’
A former closer with 28 or more saves in three consecutive years who produced 12 or more wins as a starter his last three seasons, Looper’s versatility plays in his favor. But for now, it’s all about trying to win one of two rotation spots, he says, “And then we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.’’ Chicago Sun-Times.
If Looper is going to stick with the Cubs, it will almost certainly have to be in the bullpen. Randy Wells has the 4th rotation spot locked down (unless the Cubs are insane), and it’s almost impossible to imagine him supplanting Andrew Cashner or (God forbid) Carlos Silva for the 5th spot.
Most have believed that Looper would not accept a spot in the bullpen, based on the incentives in his contract: if Looper makes the team, he gets around $1 million; but if he makes a number of starts during the year, he can make up to $3 million. You don’t negotiate for those kind of incentives if you’re expecting to end up in the bullpen.
If Looper has it back, he could be an adequate long man in the bullpen, and his presence would guarantee that guys like Casey Coleman and Jay Jackson could head back to AAA Iowa to get consistent starts. On the Spring, Looper has a 5.19 ERA in 8.2 innings of work, striking out five, and holds an impressive 1.04 WHIP.