Burnitz Setting the Bar High

Veteran outfielder Jeromy Burnitz has been in the major leagues for 12 seasons with five teams, and has no playoff experience to show for it.

He came close as an alternate player on the Cleveland Indians 1995 playoff squad, but never got into a game.

The 35-year-old knows that time is winding down in his career, and he is looking for that elusive postseason experience. Burnitz signed a one-year deal with the Cubs (worth $4.5 million plus a mutual option worth $7 million) after weighing offers from Chicago and Pittsburgh. He will replace traded star Sammy Sosa in right field.

"That's actually No. 1 on the list," Burnitz said of possibly reaching the playoffs. "I'm pumped up to be on a good team. That is definitely the goal. That would probably be something I would enjoy very much after the baseball I've played over the years. I want to be on the winning side more often."

Burnitz is not planning on being a larger-than-life superstar like Sosa, but he hopes to bring a powerful bat to Wrigley Field. Burnitz is a streaky hitter and believes that as long as the team is winning, fans will not be too hard on him during his bad skids.

"All that really matters is how the team does," Burnitz said. "I'm really focused and I go all out with the team attitude. I think all is going to revolve around what we do as a team. Of course the fans are going to love me and they won't even care if you strike out as long as the team is winning. And that's basically the attitude I'm going to have."

After mulling over offers from Pittsburgh and the Cubs, Burnitz agreed to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million in 2005. There is a mutual option worth $7 million for 2006, or his contract could be bought out for $500,000.

The lefty hitter nailed 30 or more homers in six seasons, but he also tends to strike out 100-150 times per year. Still, his .351 career on-base percentage has general manager Jim Hendry excited.

"I don't look at what he has done lightly," Hendry said. "He hit 30 or more home runs five of the last six years. He had a great year last year (37 homers and 110 RBI and hit more than .300 with runners on base for Colorado). He's a good outfielder. He's a gamer. He hits left-handed pitching well."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Sosa was dealt to Baltimore for three players on Feb. 2. Since hitting 66 home runs in 1998, Sosa had been a beloved star in Chicago, but his production began to dip in recent years, and he alienated fans and teammates when he left the season finale against Atlanta early and without permission.

--INF-OF Jerry Hairston Jr., who was traded from Baltimore in the Sammy Sosa deal, will likely play left field and lead off. Hairston said he is more comfortable as a second baseman, but the Cubs already have an established second baseman in Todd Walker. But Hairston's versatility will allow manager Dusty Baker plenty of flexibility.

--CF Corey Patterson, who had been the favorite to bat leadoff in 2005 because of his speed, will likely hit in a power spot after the Cubs traded Sammy Sosa to Baltimore for Jerry Hairston and two minor leaguers. Hairston will probably move to left field and lead off. Patterson could end up batting fourth, fifth or sixth.

BY THE NUMBERS: 16.15 -- Millions of dollars the Cubs will pay Baltimore this season for traded right fielder Sammy Sosa.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Naaa -- hey man, there is always speculation, and speculation is usually wrong. (If people say) Dusty didn't get his way ... that's as crazy of speculation as there is. I just hope he's happy. I hope the trade helps us. And I hope it helps everybody." -- Cubs manager Dusty Baker on critics who said he ran traded star Sammy Sosa out of town.

ROSTER REPORT

ARRIVALS: INF-OF Jerry Hairston (trade with Baltimore), RF Jeromy Burnitz (free agent from Colorado), INF Dave Hansen (free agent from San Diego), C Henry Blanco (free agent from Minnesota), LHP Stephen Randolph (trade with Arizona).

DEPARTURES: RF Sammy Sosa (traded to Baltimore), RHP Matt Clement (free agent to Boston), Kent Mercker (free agent to Cincinnati), Moises Alou (free agent to San Francisco), Ramon Martinez (free agent to Detroit), Mark Grudzielanek (free agent to St. Louis), Paul Bako (free agent to Los Angeles), OF Ben Grieve (free agent, signed with Pittsburgh).

FREE AGENTS: OF Tom Goodwin.

IN LIMBO: RHP Kyle Farnsworth could be on the block, depending on what happens in spring training.

MEDICAL WATCH: RHP Joe Borowski (partially torn right rotator cuff) hopes that a few months off will help strengthen his arm for 2005. Surgery was not needed for the shoulder, but he did undergo arthroscopic surgery to clean out his left knee.


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