Kendall calls joining Cubs in trade a 'no-brainer'

Updated: July 18, 2007, 12:34 AM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- It took Jason Kendall no time at all to waive his no-trade clause when Oakland general manager Billy Beane told him he'd worked out a deal sending the veteran catcher to the Cubs.

"I said, 'Where is it?' He said, 'Cubs.' I said, 'All right, let's do it,'" Kendall said Tuesday after joining Chicago and being put right into the lineup and batting seventh against the San Francisco Giants.

"It was a no-brainer."

Kendall, a three-time All-Star with Pittsburgh, is a career .298 hitter but was batting just .226 with the Athletics, who are making rookie Kurt Suzuki their starter.

The 33-year-old Kendall was traded Monday for catcher Rob Bowen and minor league left-hander Jerry Blevins. Oakland also sent the Cubs $4,541,257 to cover most of the remaining $5,398,907 of Kendall's salary, which was $13 million this season.

Kendall, who flew in from California on Tuesday, had a rough debut with the Cubs. He went 0-for-3 and failed to make two defensive plays in a 4-2 loss to the Giants. He couldn't hang on to a tough short-hop throw from left fielder Alfonso Soriano that could have cut down a run at the plate in the fourth.

And he missed a pop fly behind the plate in the eighth after initially failing to pick the ball up. Given a second chance, Bengie Molina then started San Francisco's winning rally with a single.

"It was a tough game," said Kendall, who was cheered in his first at-bat but then heard some boos later. "Two plays I should have made and it cost the game."

Kendall said the A's were headed in another direction with Suzuki and it was time to go.

"I'm at the point in my career where I'm not ready to be a tutor," Kendall said. "I want to win."

Kendall said he hopes his return to the National League -- he spent nine seasons with the Pirates -- and a change of scenery will get him out of his offensive funk. He added that Wrigley Field was his favorite place to play of all the major league parks.

"Now I get to do it on a daily basis," he said.

Kendall, who took an early flight Tuesday morning from the Bay Area, becomes the sixth catcher to start a game for the Cubs this season. Michael Barrett, whose defense was spotty and who got into a fight with ace Carlos Zambrano, was the starter out of spring training because of his strong bat. But he was traded to the Padres in a deal that brought Bowen to Chicago.

Along with Bowen, other Cubs catchers have been Henry Blanco, Koyie Hill and Geovany Soto, who was optioned back to Triple-A on Tuesday to make room on the roster for Kendall.

"Is it really six? How about that?" manager Lou Piniella said. "We only had six starting pitchers, right? One for each."

The Cubs like the durable Kendall's experience and grittiness and Piniella said he'll probably catch four or five games a week once he gets a feel for the staff.

"Whatever Lou wants me to do I'll do," Kendall said, adding a quick qualifier with some humor. "As long as I'm not hitting ninth."

That's where Kendall found himself hitting with the A's for most of this season. Of course, the pitcher bats ninth in the NL.

"I scuffled the whole year," said Kendall, known during his career for a high on-base percentage and an ability to take pitches and draw walks.

"He'll give you a good, professional at-bat," Piniella said.

When Kendall headed out to Wrigley Field on Tuesday night for his first at-bat in a Cubs uniform, he saw a familiar figure -- Barry Zito, his former Oakland teammate now struggling with the Giants.

"Funny, I got called in and they said Zito was pitching. I said, 'I know him.' If there is anybody who knows him, it's me," Kendall said. "Ironic, I guess. Kinda neat."

Kendall said he enjoyed his time in Oakland, especially last season when the A's and Zito went to the playoffs, losing to Detroit in the ALCS.

"I made a lot of friends over there. There are a lot of good baseball people over there," Kendall added.

Now he's in a new clubhouse with a team that is hoping to get to the postseason. He's been reunited with third baseman Aramis Ramirez, his former Pittsburgh teammate.

"They've been playing great baseball," Kendall said. "I just want to go out and help out."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press