Bynum Feels Right at Home

CINCINNATI -- Cubs utility man Freddie Bynum opened up on Tuesday following the Cubs' Opening Day win over the Cincinnati Reds.

Bynum, acquired in Friday's three-way trade with the Oakland A's and Texas Rangers, joined the Cubs two days before Opening Day and earned the final spot on the team's roster as a utility man who can play multiple positions in the field and make himself useful to manager Dusty Baker in critical late-inning situations as a pinch-runner and extra bat off the bench.

A second round pick in the 2000 draft, Bynum was out of options with the A's and would have been claimed off waivers had Oakland attempted to pass him through. Rather than lose him for nothing in return, the A's traded him to Texas, who in turn sent him to the Cubs for left-hander John Koronka. Oakland got pitcher Juan Dominguez from the Rangers to complete the deal.

Bynum hasn't had a whole lot of time with his new team, but has been impressed with everything he's seen thus far and has been made to feel right at home.

"It's been a good first few days with the Cubs," Bynum said. "The guys have treated me really well and everybody's worked with me really good over here. All of these guys are great. They've treated me just like I'd been here all along."

Saying goodbye to the organization who drafted him and helped mold him into the player he is today was a difficult move for the 26-year-old Bynum, a North Carolina native who was drafted out of Pitt Junior College in Greenville, N.C.

Bynum batted .275 in 692 career games with the A's farm system and had a .348 on-base percentage in that time. He came into this year knowing he would need a good spring with the A's, plus the help of other roster moves for a shot at a big league job with Oakland.

Bynum did his part to crack the A's Opening Day roster, batting .373 and getting on base at a .439 rate. Oakland manager Ken Macha praised his efforts toward the end of spring camp.

"He made a spot for himself somewhere," Macha said. "I don't know where he will wind up. Maybe it will be here."

But with the off-season addition of Antonio Perez from the Dodgers, and former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas healthy and earning the spot as the A's primary DH, there was no room left for the Cubs' latest roster addition on his former team.

"I hated to leave the A's," said Bynum, "but I'm glad I got an opportunity to come to a team that gives me a better chance to play."

And boy, can the versatile Bynum ever play, and play all over the place.

Drafted as a shortstop, he's roamed the left side of the diamond at both short and third, plus up the middle at second and most recently all three outfield positions with the A's Triple-A club last season, where he batted .278 in 102 games.

Adjusting to the outfield took time and patience, though.

"I didn't like going to the outfield at first," said Bynum, who first tried his hand there in 2004 with the A's Double-A club. "But, hey, you know, at this point in my career, I feel like being a utility guy in the majors is better suited for me than being an everyday guy in the minors."

Bynum doesn't know where he'll get the majority of his playing time this season -- nor is he concerned -- but says he is sure it will be "all over the place."

"Right now I'm just focusing on game by game, day-to-day preparations," Bynum said. "I'm focused on driving the ball into the middle of the field and getting my pitch and working the count."

Bynum also brings an incredible amount of speed to the Cubs. Reported to be the fastest player in the A's organization, he stole on average 29 bases a year throughout his tenure with the A's farm system.

Fans and scouts alike love to compare him to the Angels Chone Figgins, who like Bynum plays a wide variety of positions ranging from all three outfield positions to second, short and third.

Bynum doesn't mind the comparisons one bit.

"It's nice to be compared to a guy like Chone Figgins," he said. "He and guys like Juan Pierre do everything to help a team win. That's what it's all about."

With the addition of Bynum, the Cubs optioned INF Ryan Theriot to Triple-A Iowa to free up a roster spot. They put Bynum to work in the bottom of the ninth against the Reds on Monday as a defensive replacement to the hot-hitting Matt Murton in left. With President Bush on hand, the Cubs won in a laugher, 16-7.

So how was Bynum's first big league Opening Day in spite of the limited playing time?

"It was cool," he said. "It was definitely nice to meet the President of the United States. We greeted each other before the game. He told me his name, I told him mine. ‘Nice to meet you, sir' and that was it."

Bynum hopes to meet the president again -- preferably at the White House next off-season.

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