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Friday, August 20, 2010
Lee not same player, but could help Braves

By Bruce Levine

Derrek Lee
Derrek Lee fell victim to a Cubs prank when he drove to Wrigley Field on Friday morning.
Derrek Lee's day started with a prank by his former team as he drove up to Wrigley Field to park his car in the Cubs players lot, only to be told he couldn't park there.

“They played a good trick on me,” Lee said. “I pulled up and he said ‘No, you can’t park here.’ I got a little upset, but he told me he was just joking.”

Lee got to the ballpark at 9 a.m to familiarize himself with his new teammates, and to get comfortable for game time.

"I wanted to get here early and make sure the uniform fit right," he said.

For the first time since spring training, Lee had a smile on his face, knowing he was going from a losing team to a team that has a chance to go to the playoffs and the World Series.

"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."

Lee was asked if his Cubs career is officially over after being traded, or if he would consider returning when he becomes a free agent in November.

"You never say never, but they’ve obviously been looking to trade me," Lee said. "If they wanted me to come back, they probably wouldn’t be looking to trade me. I understand that, I have no problem with that. I have no hard feelings. So I wouldn’t expect to be coming back."

The truth of the matter is Lee wasn't the player he was in the past. The Cubs know it, he knows and the league knows it.

An example of that was the way Carlos Marmol and Koyie Hill exposed Lee's vulnerability to a good fastball in the ninth when he threw three straight 90 mph fastballs past him. Lee finished 0-for-4 and struck out twice.

Lee hasn't been the same player since 2006, when he had a horrific home-plate collision. From that point on, he lost his speed and agility.

And he's gotten by on his hard work.

That's not to say he won't help the Braves.

By having better players around him now, Lee will not be looked upon as the only offensive threat to get the job done. Therefore he should be able to relax and occasionally jump on some less-than-fantastic pitching to help the Braves win.