Szczur: 'This is where I need to be'

Outfielder 'excited' for new opportunity with Padres

Szczur: 'This is where I need to be'

SAN DIEGO -- In one sense, it wasn't easy for Matt Szczur to say goodbye to the Cubs. Drafted in 2010, it was the only organization he had ever known. The 27-year-old outfielder won a World Series there, and he witnessed the complete turnaround of a franchise that finished in last place during his rookie season in '14.

In another sense, it was certainly easy for Szczur to say hello to the Padres. There wasn't much playing time available for him in Chicago. Szczur was out of options, and when the Cubs designated him for assignment on Saturday, the Friars jumped at the chance to acquire him.

San Diego dealt Minor League righty Justin Hancock to Chicago in exchange for Szczur, and optioned outfielder Jabari Blash to Triple-A El Paso to clear room before Tuesday's game. Szczur entered as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning of the Padres' 11-0 loss and grounded out in his first at-bat with his new club.

"I loved being with the Cubs," said Szczur, whose name is pronounced like Caesar. "But I knew I needed to get out. My first reaction was that I was excited, to be honest with you. I wasn't playing very much. I love the guys, they were awesome. But for my career, this is where I need to be -- with someone who's going to give me an opportunity."

Preller on Szczur acquisition

The Padres will do exactly that. It's not quite clear what specific role Szczur will play with San Diego, but he'll likely see time at all three outfield spots, playing on a fairly regular basis.

"It's a great opportunity," Szczur said. "I'm excited to be here. Tough to leave the Cubbies, having been with them for seven years. This opportunity has opened doors, and I'm very excited about it."

In parts of four big league seasons, Szczur is batting .243/.295/.370. He was 4-for-19 before the Cubs made their decision to part ways with him this past weekend.

"Everybody in Chicago raves about the type of person he is," said Padres manager Andy Green. "On the baseball field, he's really athletic, flies around the field. ... He's a really competitive, hard-nosed-type baseball player that's been waiting for his opportunity to play more consistently. In Chicago, that never really came for him. I think he really did a great job embracing his role over there as the 25th guy. But I think he's hungry for more."

The Padres are eager to put Szczur's on-field talents to use. But they also see value in adding him as a clubhouse presence. Two days ago, when the possibility of a trade arose, they approached Clayton Richard, Szczur's teammate in Chicago. Richard raved about Szczur's makeup.

Szczur has already been part of one youth movement. He was in the Cubs organization well before Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Jake Arrieta.

"He's part of a group that has played some big games, played in some big spots," said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. "He's also been part of a build. He was drafted [in the] 2010 season, saw some lean years, then rode it through to be a part of a championship club."

Added Szczur: "I hope I can bring leadership. That's what I would like to do. But I'm not really a spoken leader. I try and lead by example. I enjoy and try to lead by hustling, making plays, and that would be the best thing I can do."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.