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Neal excited for new opportunity with Cubs

PHILADELPHIA -- Thomas Neal was just glad that a team claimed him off of waivers when the Cubs scooped up the outfielder Sunday. After they told Neal he would be joining their Major League roster, Neal said it was "icing on the cake."

Neal joined the Cubs in Philadelphia on Tuesday for his third stint with a team in the Majors. Neal spent most of his season playing with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate, but he was designated him for assignment Friday.

The 25-year-old said he had been designated twice before in his career, but he did not get picked up either time. But the news that the Cubs not only wanted him, but wanted him on their big league club, was a welcomed surprise for Neal.

"This time going into it, I didn't know what to expect," Neal said. "I had spent the year in Triple-A, but this game is weird, you don't know what teams are looking for."

Neal was hitting .325 with an .802 OPS in 72 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season. He has a career .301 average and .806 OPS in eight Minor League seasons.

A right-handed hitter, Neal has limited Major League experience. The Indians called him up in September last season, and the Yankees used him in four games during mid-June. Neal is 7-for-34 (.206) lifetime against Major League pitching, but he is hoping he can get more opportunities and put up better numbers with the Cubs.

"Anytime you come to a new situation, you definitely put your best foot forward," Neal said. "I just want to get back on the field and play baseball. Having to sit four days and waiting to find out what's going to happen can be torture. I'm just excited to be back."

Manager Dale Sveum said he expects to use Neal against left-handed pitching and play him in either of the two corner-outfield spots.

Neal appeared in Tuesday's 9-8 loss as a pinch-hitter, hitting a game-ending fly ball to left off Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon with two runners on base.

Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for
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