Five minutes with…Tom Gorzelanny
It is roughly 400 miles from Indianpolis to Pittsburgh, and that is where I caught up with one of the newest members of the Cubs organization, left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, driving east on I-70. He was on his way back to the Iron City before reporting to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs.
“So Tom, do you have a minute to talk?”
“Man, I’m driving back to Pittsburgh to grab some things. I got nothing but time.”
He and fellow lefty John Grabow were acquired by the Cubs in exchange for right-handers Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio and Single-A infielder Josh Harrison. (Photo by Rob Tringali)
Cubs might remember the dogged southpaw who went 14-10 in 2007, with a 3.88 ERA in 201.2 innings. He was one of the brightest stars of the Pirates young rotation. Against the Cubs in 2007, Gorzelanny did well, posting a modest 1-2 record, but 3.66 ERA and striking out 15 in 19.2 innings.
For the Orland Park, Ill. native, being traded to the Cubs today was like homecoming weekend.
“I almost can’t describe how this feels,” Gorzelanny said. “To come home and play for the hometown team….It’s definitely something I’m going to enjoy.”
If you are familiar at all with where Orland Park is, then it’s going to be very obvious that the Gorzelanny house was not decked out in Cubs blue. Geography wouldn’t allow anything but the white and black of the Sox. But don’t hold it against him.
“Yeah, I was just brought up to be a Sox fan,” he said. “I mean, I couldn’t help it–all my friends were Sox fans. My family was all Sox fans. But you know, I am more than happy to play for the Cubs right now. I am ecstatic.”
After what would have been termed as a “breakout” 2007, Gorzelanny experienced a hellish 2008, going 6-9 with a devilish 6.66 ERA. It was a step backward and he knew why.
“It was a year I just wanted to erase,” Gorzelanny said. “Going into spring training after ’07, I just wasn’t prepared enough to pitch another 200 innings. As a young guy, you think you don’t have to work as hard maybe. As a result, my shoulder got tired and I couldn’t get my breaking ball over, so I’d try to throw harder. But nothing worked. It took a toll mentally and physically.
“But this off-season I worked my butt off, because I learned a major lesson,” he added. “I benefitted from that disappointing season tremendously. Sure, I wasn’t in Pittsburgh as much as I needed to be, but I learned that I can still win major-league games.”
For the Indianapolis Indians, Gorzelanny posted a 4-3 record with a terrific 2.48 ERA, striking out 85 and walking just 30 in 87 innings. He earned a brief nine-game call-up to Pittsburgh in late-May and early June. (Photo by Jim McIssac)
Gorzelanny also is an alum of Triton Junior College, in River Grove, Ill. (A shout to all you Trojans out there!) The school has graduated some esteemed baseball people, most notably Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, former Cubs outfielder Lance Johnson and current Dodgers general manager and former Cubs media relations director Ned Colletti. Gorzelanny played under head coach Bob Simmons, who also coached Puckett and Johnson.
“I really enjoyed my time there,” he said. “it helped me learn to pitch my best and gave me the opportunities that led me to the pros. Bob’s a little old school–he wanted you to pitch every couple of days, so sometimes I had to push back a little, but he only wanted me to get better and stronger as a pitcher.”
So this hometown kid is nearly back in Chicago. When he does come up to the bigs is a good question. Let’s leave that up to Jim Hendry and Co. But one thing’s for sure:
“I’m just happy I don’t have to face that lineup anymore,” he laughed. “It’ll be nice to have them behind me this time.”
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