Derrek Lee hitless in Braves debut
CHICAGO -- When Atlanta Braves first baseman Derrek Lee drove up to Wrigley Field on Friday in his first game since being traded by the Chicago Cubs, he was told his car was no longer welcome in the parking lot.
"I didn't ask to be traded. I was fine over there with those guys, but it's just a new beginning. I feel like a 15-year-old kid on the first day of school. It's exciting, and we're playing to get to the postseason."” -- Derrek Lee
At least the Cubs have maintained a sense of humor during this disappointing season. The attendant eventually told Lee it was a joke, and the Cubs' stalwart for nearly seven years found his way to the visitors' clubhouse.
"I think it's smaller," the 6-foot-5 Lee said. "I just bumped my head coming out."
Lee received a standing ovation before his first at-bat on Friday, but he looked a little out of his element all game, at least at the plate as he went 0-for-4. But the Braves scored three runs in the ninth inning to pull out a 5-3 win, sending the Cubs to their fifth straight defeat.
"I did pretty good at separating my thoughts today," said Lee, who admitted before the game that he felt weird. "It was easier than I thought."
Lee never had any postseason success to celebrate with the Cubs, but he still has fond memories.
"It's tough, because these guys are not only your teammates, but they become great friends off the field, because you spend so much time with them," Lee said. "It's tough, but we understand the business.
"We're not playing well, so the finger kind of comes back to us. We've got to point it at ourselves. We didn't play well, and these are the results of it."
Lee faced his closest friend on the Cubs in pitcher Ryan Dempster.
"Ryan's probably one of my best friends in the game," Lee said before the game. "We've been together like 11, 12 years in the big leagues. There will be some emotions there, but it'll be fun."
Braves manager Bobby Cox said before the win that he was glad not to have to figure a way to beat Lee.
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"We need Derrek Lee in our lineup," Cox said. "He's much respected around baseball, and he's going to fit right in. He was the guy you didn't want to beat you, in our meetings."
Because Troy Glaus wears No. 25, Lee took No. 27, which was his first number in the majors.
"This uniform is a uniform I've always had respect for," Lee said. "You watch the way they go about their business, such a winning tradition, the way Bobby conducts his business.
"The Braves uniform is one I have respect for, and it feels good putting it on."
Lee was batting cleanup, and he wanted to make a point that he didn't initiate the trade.
"First of all, I didn't ask to be traded," Lee said. "I was fine over there with those guys, but it's just a new beginning.
"I feel like a 15-year-old kid on the first day of school. It's exciting, and we're playing to get to the postseason."
ESPNChicago.com columnist Jon Greenberg contributed information to this story.
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