Jim Hendry submitted himself to 20 minutes of inarticulate grilling on this morning's Mike North radio show.
For those outside of the area, North is a Chicago native and former hot dog vendor who auditioned for, and won, a slot as one of the original show hosts when all-sports WSCR went on the air 15 years ago. He has always positioned himself as "one of the fans," a regular guy who's not afraid to flaunt his Chi-CAH-go accent or ask tough questions.
In fact, North confuses "non-professional broadcaster" with simply being unprofessional. He regularly advances vicious, unsubstantiated rumors (during the Hendry interview, he alluded to "talk" that Mark DeRosa has benefited from performance-enhancing drugs; Hendry let North ramble on without commenting) and his so-called tough questions tend to be indelicate, poorly masqueraded character assassinations of whomever he's interviewing.
In any case, North has a small but loyal audience and Tuesday, Hendry was apparently persuaded there was some value in addressing it.
Let the paraphrasing begin...
On how he's feeling:
Hendry said he feels great.
On why the Cubs signed DeRosa instead of handing the secondbase job to Ryan Theriot:
Hendry said DeRosa is known to be "a great team guy" and "a winner." He thinks DeRosa could be one of those hitters who "actually gets better in the second half of his career" and that his versatility will suit the team well. Hendry also said that Theriot will definitely have a place on the Cubs and that he, too, is capable of playing several positions well.
On using Kerry Wood as a closer and not just as another middle relief guy:
"That will sort itself out," Hendry said. He believes Ryan Dempster will rediscover whatever it was he lost last year and that he and Wood will both be big contributors in the Cub bullpen.
On who will be in the Cub outfield:
Hendry said that remains an open question, that there might be more acquisitions before Opening Day (think Cliff Floyd, hope Ryan Church).
On Ronny Cedeno being "ruined" (North's word) by having to learn secondbase after starting the year as the #1 shortstop:
Hendry said Cedeno was not ruined, but he'll "have to win a job in camp" after his miserable '06 season. Hendry also suggested that at his young age, Cedeno is "not going to get buried in the organization." (Sounds like somebody needs to do some apartment-hunting in Des Moines.)
On Mark Prior:
Hendry is "optimistic" Prior will be a factor in '07, but feels the team has covered itself in case he isn't healthy. About reports cited by North that Prior's fastball is topping out at 87 or 88 mph, Hendry said, "Well, he hasn't thrown with the (radar) gun at all, so I don't know where you're getting that from." North must not have known where he got that from, since he didn't press the issue.
On signing Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis:
Hendry said the Cubs' off-season plan was to add one lefty and one righty, and since he quickly deduced that Barry Zito would be looking for a longer contract than the Cubs were comfortable offering, he knew the team would have to look elsewhere (i.e., Lilly). Hendry also said the Cubs had looked into trading for veteran pitching before going the free agent route, but teams were demanding three or four of the Cubs' best prospects, which he wasn't interested in giving up.
Finally, on re-signing Carlos Zambrano:
Hendry said he and Z's agent will begin talks "in the next couple weeks" in hopes of eventually agreeing on a deal before the end of the season.
All in all, Hendry had a lot to offer, and the interrogation was probably not unlike what he and others in the Cubs front office will face from the ragged cast of characters who are sure to show up at the Cub Convention.