Hoffpauir Happy with Opportunity

Micah Hoffpauir made the most of his first big league start by hitting two doubles in the Cubs' 5-3 loss at Houston on Wednesday, and Cubs manager Lou Piniella took notice.

"We're looking for some left-handed hitting that can drive the ball. If this young man can (hit), we'll find a place for him in the lineup," Piniella said of Hoffpauir.

Hitting is what Hoffpauir does best. In fact, it's about all he's done since being drafted in the 13th round from Lamar University in 2002. Entering the 2008 season, which marked his first scheduled invite to big league spring training, Hoffpauir was a .280 career hitter with 71 home runs in six minor league seasons.

In many ways, his big league arrival is overdue.

Hoffpauir was enjoying the best season of his pro career in 2007 with a .319 average and 16 home runs before a knee injury cut short his season. In 2006, he slugged a career-best 22 home runs while playing his most familiar position -- first base.

But rather than promote Hoffpauir to help sub for an injured Derrek Lee that year, the Cubs opted for many outgoing players such as Phil Nevin, John Mabry and Todd Walker. All three are retired, with Walker was last spotted riding a Mardi Gras float in Shreveport.

Still, Cubs Farm Director turned Vice President of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita always believed that Hoffpauir would get his shot one day.

"He will get to the majors," Fleita said this spring. "Trust me, he will find a way."

He has for now anyway. The Cubs brought up Hoffpauir from Class AAA Iowa earlier this week, placing him on their 40-man roster following three-plus seasons in Des Moines. He recently recovered from a left oblique injury suffered in an exhibition game against the University of Iowa two days before the team's season opener.

Hoffpauir would spend the first month of the season on the DL, rehabbing in Arizona at the Cubs' minor league facilities and spring training headquarters.

He was hungry to return and it has showed in his performance. Putting aside timing issues and the overall rustiness players often feel after stints on the DL, he hit .324 with three home runs in just nine games prior to being called up on Sunday.

"Nobody wants to be on the DL," Hoffpauir said. "I definitely wanted to get back on the field as soon as possible. I felt I was really close to getting to the big leagues."

While he'd like to stay there, Hoffpauir isn't looking ahead.

"I try not to let anything like that affect me," he said. "It's one of those things where whatever is going to happen is going to happen. I don't try to get too far ahead of the day-to-day stuff. I just let things come as they go."


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