Chicago, Heilman’s Kind of Town

January 29, 2009

“Starting has always been my first love,” former Mets reliever Aaron Heilman said.

Prior to being shipped off to the Emerald City in exchange for Seattle closer, J.J. Putz, Heilman gave the Mets an ultimatum. He simply said, “Start me or trade me.” The Mets did the latter and traded the Notre Dame alum to the Mariners. During his junior year as a starter for the Fighting Irish, Heilman went 15-0. Unfortunately, at the age of thirty, those days are long gone. During his tenure with the Mets, Heilman was used primarily as a cross-over relief pitcher coming out of the bullpen.

“It definitely makes you learn how to have a thick skin,” said Heilman of pitching in New York. “A lot of people there are brutally honest, and sometimes that’s a very good thing. Sometimes everybody needs to hear some things that they don’t want to hear.

“I’m looking forward to a little change of pace, a change of scenery.”

Upon signing for $1.625 million to pitch for the Mariners this season, Heilman felt he had been given a second chance. According to Seattle’s front office, they had intentions of making him their fifth starter. However, Heilman had to earn that role as he was one of several potential candidates.

“All you can ever ask for is a chance to compete and show what you’ve got and try to win a job,” Heilman said. “I know we’ve got a lot of starting pitching here, so it’s not going to be an easy task.”

Fortunately, for Heilman, his situation may have gotten a little easier. Most recently, the Mariners have dealt him to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for infielder Ronny Cedeno and reliever Garrett Olson. With Jason Marquis traded to the Rockies, Heilman may have a better chance in cracking the starting rotation as a member of the Cubbies than he did with Seattle. If Heilman does land a starting job, he may be slotted to pitch against his former club, the Mets. Both teams are scheduled to meet six times during the regular season.

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