Smith happy to be in Chicago, closer to ailing mother

Reliever acquired from Angels now a 5-hour drive from hometown of Cincinnati

Smith happy to be in Chicago, closer to ailing mother

CHICAGO -- Not every player can pick where he will be traded, but Joe Smith wasn't too upset to go from the Angels to the Cubs. It's not that he didn't like living in southern California, but now he'll be closer to his mother, Lee, who lives in Cincinnati and is battling Huntington's disease.

"Definitely, a five-hour drive is a little better than a five-hour flight," said Smith, who was acquired Monday at the non-waiver Trade Deadline from the Angels for Minor League pitcher Jesus Castillo.

Smith checked the Cubs' schedule right away to see when they'll be in Cincinnati -- it's the last road trip of the regular season Sept. 30-Oct. 2 -- and he hopes to have family come to Wrigley Field for some home games this month. His mother is doing better as she battles what's been called the "Devil's disease." There is no cure.

"She was excited for about 10 seconds," Smith said of the phone call he had to tell his mother the news, "and then she went on to a different topic. That's how my mom is."

Smith is the fourth reliever added to the Cubs' bullpen in a short span, joining newcomers Aroldis Chapman, Joe Nathan and Mike Montgomery. Cubs manager Joe Maddon was briefed about the new right-hander and his funky sidearm delivery from his Angels buddies, including manager Mike Scioscia, who said he loved Smith and put "L-O-V-E" in capital letters in his text message.

Maddon made sure Smith was aware that in the National League, relievers are sometimes called on earlier than in the American League.

"He needs to know that because these guys are routine freaks," Maddon said.

Told that Maddon liked him because he had "funk," Smith said: "That's better than some of the ways I've heard." He started throwing sidearm in 2005, at the encouragement of two coaches, and fought it at first. Now, he says the coaches were right.

He's well aware of the Cubs, having watched their day games when they were broadcast nationally on WGN-TV.

"Growing up Cincinnati, before I went to practice at 7 p.m., the Cubs were on WGN, and I was laying on the couch watching those guys -- Mark Grace, Gary Gaetti, Kerry Wood, Mark Prior. It's pretty cool to be here, close to home, close to some family. It's a really good team and one of the best cities in the world.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.