Jim Lefebvre became the Chicago Cubs' manager yesterday, promising a return to fundamentals and saying he was looking for some beefed-up pitching to revive the team.
Fired by the Seattle Mariners last month after their most successful season, Lefebvre said yesterday that he was delighted to take the reins at Chicago.
"The tradition of the Cubs is long. . . . The fans are loyal and the organization is one of baseball's strongest," Lefebvre said at a Wrigley Field news conference. "This is a very special monument to play in."
Lefebvre replaces Jim Essian, fired after less than a year on the job with the Cubs, a team that many had expected to be contenders in the National League East. Despite having spent big money during the off-season to sign free agents George Bell, Danny Jackson and Dave Smith, the Cubs were 77-83.
Larry Himes, named Cubs general manager last week, said he interviewed several people for the manager's job, including Cubs third-base coach Chuck Cottier and fired Milwaukee Brewers manager Tom Trebelhorn, and picked Lefebvre "because he's the best."
"He has a great deal of baseball knowledge and isn't afraid to stand out in front," said Himes, who was Chicago White Sox general manager in 1988 when Lefebvre was interviewed for the managerial job with the American League team.
Lefebvre, 49, was fired last month after guiding Seattle to an 83-79 record -- its first winning year in 15 seasons. During his tenure, Lefebvre guided the Mariners to a 233-253 record, the most wins by a manager in the club's history.
The Mariners, who improved their record in each of the three years Lefebvre managed, finished fifth in the AL West, 12 games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins.
* PIRATES: Pitcher John Smiley said he played with an injured arm against the Braves in the NL playoffs but he didn't inform the team.
Smiley, coming off a 20-win season, was the losing pitcher in the third and seventh games of the playoffs. He gave up five runs in less than two innings in Game 3 and left after Brian Hunter's three-run homer in the first inning of Game 7.
"The arm was dead," Smiley said. "I didn't pitch many innings the year before. Then I worked hard to get where I was. When I won the 20th it was hurting."
Smiley, a left-hander, won No. 20 against Montreal during the last week of the season. In his previous start against the Mets, his throwing arm was hit by a line drive off the bat of Gregg Jefferies.
Pirates manager Jim Leyland said he was suspicious about Smiley's arm, but he and pitching coach Ray Miller checked with the pitcher before the playoffs.
"He told us he was fine. He assured us that he was all right," Leyland said. "When you have a 20-game winner, if he says he's ready, you've got to pitch him. If he had said it was bothering him, we'd have used someone else. We had a lot of people ready."
Trainer Kent Biggerstaff learned later that Smiley's arm wasn't 100 percent.
"It wasn't something he could damage further, but the swelling and bleeding from the line drive had gone into the elbow," Biggerstaff said. "It was the kind of thing that lingers three to six weeks."
* PADRES: Smoking will be banned in all seating sections at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium beginning next year, but smokers still will be able to light up in the concourse and plaza areas.
Representatives of the Padres, NFL Chargers and San Diego State University Aztecs, the three teams that regularly use the open-air stadium, made the announcement, citing a national trend toward limits on public smoking.
The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum banned smoking in all seats earlier this year.
* ANGELS: California courted the star of this year's free-agent market, Bobby Bonilla, for four hours.
"It was pretty impressive," Bonilla said. "I got a chance to meet [owner Gene Autry] and his wife. I was pretty much in awe of everything, sitting next to Gene Autry, who's a legend."
Bonilla, a switch-hitter who plays the outfield, first base and third base, has rejected an $18.5 million offer by his old team, the Pirates. He received an undisclosed offer yesterday from the Mets. Also yesterday, the Cubs announced they were interested in interviewing him.