Preseason Interview with Scott Williamson

<B>MESA, Ariz.</B> - The Cubs' top two candidates for saving games this summer have had good experiences in the role of closer. Of course, there is Joe Borowski, who will be sidelined 6-8 weeks with a fractured right ulna, but a name that is flying under the radar is former All-Star and National League Rookie of the Year Scott Williamson.

"That is one of the reasons why I signed here," Williamson said. "They will give me an opportunity to close when I get healthy."

Williamson is coming off his second "Tommy John" surgery in the last four years. His latest operation took place in October as a member of the World Champion Boston Red Sox. The Louisiana native pitched in only 28 games last season before being left off the playoff roster. Now the reliever hopes to bring positive karma from one supposedly cursed baseball town to another.

"I saw the excitement last year in Boston," Williamson said. "It takes skill and a great clubhouse and great players. The team was laid back and easy going."

Williamson had spent his career with the Cincinnati Reds before being traded to Boston in 2003. When Jim Hendry signed him in the offseason, the expectation was for Williamson to join the Cubs' bullpen some time in the latter part of this season. The right-hander believes he can surpass those goals and make a difference much earlier, however.

"I have to keep going out there feeling good," Williamson said. "I also need to feel good the next day. If I do, I'll be back sooner rather than later. I am hoping to get out there in the first week of June or the end of May. It has been a blessing in disguise that I haven't had a setback."

The Williamson family had a very busy offseason. To go along with arm surgery, a World Series ring and a new team, Williamson and his wife, Lisa, had a daughter, Cambrie Diane, on March 1. The family is still living in Cincinnati and will likely relocate to Chicago in the near future. While the birth of his second child has been very exciting, Williamson is reminded that he will miss opening day for the first time in his career.

"Staying positive is the most important part," Williamson said. "I will surprise the fans (when I return). My arm is going to bounce back just like it did last time."

One of the appeals of coming to Chicago was the prospect of playing with former teammates Nomar Garciaparra and Todd Walker. Williamson played with Walker in both Cincinnati and Boston, and served as Garciaparra's teammate with the Red Sox.

"I was good friends with Nomar and Todd," Williamson said. "(Walker's) wife and my wife are good friends. Nomar is one of the best superstars I played with on and off the field. When I was struggling in Boston, he was my biggest supporter. It is good to go into a clubhouse knowing guys."

When he comes off the disabled list, Williamson will get a close look at more of his former teammates when the Cubs battle the Reds. Williamson pointed to his familiarity with the National League Central as a key reason for joining the Cubs. It will be a big homecoming for the ex-Red.

"It's going to be weird," Williamson said. "I faced the Reds last season in Spring Training, but it is going to be different going to Cincinnati as a visitor. It is going to be nice to see those guys again."

Williamson will begin the season on the 60-day disabled list and finish his throwing program May 9. Depending on his progress, the Cubs will determine whether he will stay in Mesa for extended spring training or go to the minor leagues for a rehabilitation session.

"I pitched in pain last year and I can't wait to go out there and pitch pain-free," Williamson said. "I can't wait to pitch for this ballclub. I feel like we're a young and hungry team mixed with some veterans. I think this is going to be a really good season for the Chicago Cubs. This is one of the best teams I have ever been put on."

Scott Sabin is the contributing editor of Inside The Ivy. Write to Scott at

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