Q&A with David Aardsma

The Cubs have always had a certain interest in White Sox relievers past and present. Scott Eyre and Bob Howry are two former South Siders whom the Cubs actively pursued (and landed) last year around this time, and among the others to land on the North Side after previously donning the Pale Hose colors are Don Pall and the dreaded Matt Karchner.

History aside, the Cubs acquired left-hander Neal Cotts from the White Sox on Thursday. In doing so, they parted ways with right-hander David Aardsma and minor league left-hander Carlos Vasquez.

Aardsma was 3-0 with a 4.08 ERA in 45 relief appearances with the Cubs this past season. Having began the year at Triple-A Iowa, Aardsma made his way up to Chicago four different times in 2006.

Cotts, meanwhile, appeared in 70 games and was 1-2 with a 5.17 ERA. The trade marked the first swap between the two Windy City clubs since July of 1998 when the Cubs dealt a then Class Low-A minor league pitcher named Jon Garland for a semi-promising reliever in the right-handed Karchner.

We caught up with the 24-year-old Aardsma shortly after he learned he'd been traded and got his thoughts on the progress he made with the Cubs this past season, his move across town, and more.

What was your reaction when Jim Hendry called and gave you the news?

Obviously, the first thing is it was a shock. I've been a Cubs fan for most of my entire life and I was hoping to be with the Cubs for a very long time. I also got a call from (White Sox General Manager) Kenny Williams and he told me he was very happy with the trade, so that excites me. You go from kind of being down and disappointed to realizing that you're wanted somewhere else. That's a good feeling.

What were some of the things that Ken told you?

He welcomed me to the South Side and he'd mentioned that he knew I was a big Cub fan most of my life. He said he was sorry that I wouldn't be playing for them, but that he really wanted me in his organization and that he definitely has plans for me at the major league level, and that I can help them out. He told me if he didn't feel the trade was one that would help them, he wouldn't have done it.

What did Ken tell you about those "plans" you spoke of?

He had said that he sees me in the bullpen next year at the major league level, but there's no question from my side that until I'm making that flight up to Chicago, I know I'm going to be fighting for a spot. I also want to go in and prove myself. I want to go in there and show them that they made a really good trade to get me. I want to show them that I should be pitching at the major league level and that I can help them.

Growing up as a Cub fan, was there ever a brief moment's hesitation about being traded to the Sox?

Obviously, I think the rivalry is one of the best in baseball. It's tough when you're put in an organization in a city that's so divided. You're basically one or the other. There's no in-between. The switch like that is tough. The first thought in my head was, "Wow, the White Sox? I can't believe they even made a deal with each other." But you have to put that stuff aside and understand that it is a business. Until I've proven myself plenty long enough to make my own plans and tell them where I want to go, I'm kind of at their mercy. That's the way it is and it's been like that for hundreds of years.

What do you know about the White Sox organization going into this?

Since the trade, I have talked to some guys like Scott Eyre, who played for them several years ago. Really, I don't know a whole lot, but their organization has obviously won a World Series and they have a plan to get back to the World Series. They're going to do everything they can to get there and they're willing to spend the money and go after the players they want. I've heard nothing but positive things about the organization itself and that they're out to win. They're doing everything they can to become better every year.

How do you perceive having Ozzie Guillen for a manager?

I don't know a whole lot about Ozzie other than what I hear in the media and what you hear through fans, but not all of that is true. I really want to hold back an opinion until I get a chance to play for him. Who am I to say he's this or that type of person without ever meeting him? I want to wait and see what type of guy he is and what type of manager he is. From a player's standpoint, I really haven't heard any bad things about him, so it should be interesting.

When we last talked around the first of September, you had mentioned some of the progress you'd made this year with your pitches and with just staying more relaxed in the second half. How much of that do you take into next year?

Well, I was really happy with what happened in the second half, and really I don't even consider it the second half; I consider it the second time I got called up. That was where a big change had been made; while I was down in Triple-A after that first call-up. Working with (Iowa pitching coach) Alan Dunn, everything just kind of clicked and I felt like I really got an idea of what I wanted to do on the mound. During September, everything really came together and with the help of Larry Rothschild, it kind of took a life of its own with my off-speed stuff, as well as being able to use my fastball in a lot of different counts. So I was really happy about that.

With the adrenaline, I felt that you get so caught up in the game and in the moment that you forget what your job is. I really started to feel comfortable out on the mound. It didn't matter if the score was 8-0 or 1-1, or if it was in extra innings. I felt like I was able to do the exact same job every time I stepped out. When everything feels the same but the situations are different, that's when you can have success.

What can you tell the Sox fans who've never seen you pitch all that much about your stuff? Those of us who've seen you know you pretty well.

I throw a fastball and slider and use my splitter as kind of a changeup. It's more of an out-pitch, but I use my fastball in a lot of counts. If I need something to just get over the plate other than a fastball, I go with the slider.

Best of luck, David!

Let's hope that it works out for both of us, even for the other guy in the deal (Vasquez). Let's hope it works out and I end up having a great season next year. Who knows? Maybe it all works out and I'm with the White Sox for a long time. But you never know, I could get traded right back to the Cubs. As long as we all have long careers and are successful, you can't complain.

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