The long wait finally ended Friday for Joe Borowski when he walked to the mound at Wrigley Field and threw his first pitch for the Cubs in almost a year.
After missing the final four months of 2004 with a shoulder injury and the first seven weeks of this season with a broken bone in his right wrist, Borowski was walking on air.
"I've never looked forward to something so much in my life," he said before the game. "I'll be nervous, but I'm so anxious to get out there I think that will supersede everything else."
Borowski pitched a perfect ninth inning in the Cubs' 5-1 loss and is likely to be inserted in such non-pressure situations for a while. Manager Dusty Baker doesn't plan to use Borowski as a closer, at least not in the immediate future.
"The better he throws, the better he looks, and the later in the game he'll be," Baker said.
When Borowski went down in spring training, it created a domino effect on the rest of the bullpen. LaTroy Hawkins failed to nail down Borowski's closer's role after repeated chances, and Chad Fox blew out his elbow while being rushed into action as the emergency closer.
Though Borowski was pitching well for Triple-A Iowa, an improved middle-relief corps, led by Michael Wuertz, Todd Wellemeyer and Will Ohman, made it easier for the Cubs to let him get his stuff back at a gradual pace.
"I was ready to come back after my second outing, but that's why you're not the guy in charge," Borowski said. "They wanted to make sure everything was fine. They didn't want me to come up here and have a setback. They want to make sure I can go three out of four days. If you step back and look at it, it was a smart move."
Borowski's velocity was up to 88-89 m.p.h. by his second outing for Iowa. Though he's not in the low 90s, as he was as the Cubs' closer in 2003, he's confident he can make the adjustments.
"I never saw the reports or the charts, but everything felt good coming out [of my hand]," he said. "More important than adding another mile or two [to my fastball], I was able to put the ball where I wanted to.
"I don't know if I'm capable of [throwing in the 90s], but if I can go 88-89 and put the ball where I want, I'll take that over going 91-92. Sometimes when you go through injuries, you have to make some little trade-offs."