New Home, Success For Gwaltney

Lee Gwaltney was a promising sixth round draft pick by the Philadelphia Phillies out of Louisiana Tech University in 2002. His career in the Phillies' organization ended rather abruptly back in February when the right-hander was released for his alleged involvement in a Clearwater, Fla., bar fight on the night of January 28, which led to the broken hand of top prospect Cole Hamels.

After the incident, the Philadelphia media hung on every word as Hamels and general manager Ed Wade gushed over concern for the left-hander's pitching hand. Ironically, the same media was nowhere to be found when Gwaltney was released after unjustly taking most of the blame for the incident.

Eventually, Gwaltney was snatched up by the Cubs late in Spring Training. He reported to Class-A Peoria for the start of his 2005 season and made 10 starts with the Chiefs, going 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA before being promoted to Class High-A Daytona in June.

Although his tenure with the Phillies ended suddenly, Gwaltney received many compliments from those in the organization, who put in a good word to the Cubs and Director of Player Development Oneri Fleita.

Despite the incident, Gwaltney remains friends with Hamels and many others in the Phillies' organization, and he insists there are no hard feelings toward the franchise at all.

In fact, only one person in the Phillies' front office seemed to have a problem with Gwaltney.

"He and I just didn't see eye-to-eye," Gwaltney said. "He made the call and told me they were going to release me. I like to go out and have a good time, and he looked down on that. He said, ‘We think you're a bad influence on Cole.' Those were his exact words."

While that person may have thought Gwaltney was a "bad influence" on the fragile first-round pick, Fleita and company did not. And looking back on it all, Gwaltney says the change of scenary is the best thing that could have happened to him.

"I'm happy with the way I've pitched, considering all the hoopla I went through," he said. "Before I even got out of Mesa this spring, it seemed like I was very high on the Cubs' list. I think I've proved my value. I hope they'll give me an option to come back next year."

Gwaltney is currently in the midst of a one-year contract with the Cubs. Once the season ends, he and his agent have plans to meet with the organization in hopes of hammering out a long-term deal that will keep Gwaltney with the Cubs indefinitely.

Things didn't always look so promising for Gwaltney after his release by the Phillies, however. Most every team that he and his agent came in contact with had already finalized its minor league rosters.

Fleita knew of Gwaltney's situation and, after reading good reports from other members in the Phillies' front office, he contacted Gwaltney about a tryout with the Cubs in Mesa.

"When the Cubs called, I was actually in the Gulf of Mexico fishing," recalled Gwaltney, a career 13-22 pitcher with a 3.70 ERA entering 2005. "Oneri asked how soon I could get to Arizona."

Fleita remembers getting in touch with Gwaltney quite well.

"Someone called me and I started looking at his reports from last year," Fleita said in June. "At the time, we needed some arms and bodies, so he came out and pitched in front of us. He knew he'd have to wait his turn and he did just that."

Leaving the Phillies also turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Gwaltney in terms of the two organization's varying strength and exercise programs. Gwaltney is now in his sixth month with the Cubs, and he feels more refreshed and less exhausted this late into a season as opposed to his years in the Philadelphia farm system.

"The Cubs do things a lot differently," Gwaltney said. "I like it a lot better here as far as their views on which running programs we do. With the Phillies, we were pretty much run straight into the ground by the time August rolled around."

Since being promoted to Daytona, Gwaltney has pitched well with a 2-3 record and 2.84 ERA in 17 appearances—most of which have come from the bullpen.

Philly Baseball Insider Top Stories