When I found out I was getting called up in September I was excited. Then I started getting innings, pitching in important games and I'm sitting there thinking, I'm pitching in a playoff race. This is about as exciting as it gets. It's something you always dream about when you come up.

I don't really know why I was called up. There was a possibility, that with a doubleheader, they would need a spot start. So that was an option. I don't think they had a plan for me. But they had a chance to see me throw and I've had some success up here, so they've been throwing me back out there.

I've come in situations where we've been down one, down two. You just want to throw some zeroes and give your team the chance to win. The way this race has been, every game has been important.

No one's noticing me yet. It's kind of nice when you go unnoticed because it means you're doing your job. A lot of times out of the bullpen, the only time you get noticed is if you're a stud over the course of a season or if you're bad. It's been nice not getting any recognition. That's the way I like to keep it, go in and do my job. The rest takes care of itself.

Once I got to the Cubs, the thought of meeting guys like Derrek Lee and Kerry Wood was a little intimidating. I remember sitting at home watching Kerry's 20-strikeout game, thinking that guy's got unbelievable stuff. Now I'm sitting next to him in the bullpen. You try not to be overwhelmed, but every now and then you kind of get that "Wow" factor. Walking up the clubhouse steps behind your manager and the back of his jersey says, "Piniella," and you're thinking, that's my manager. It's kind of different. The first time I came out onto the field at Wrigley for a game, I got goosebumps. When you first hear the national anthem and how loud the fans get before it's even over, it's an awesome experience.

I know there's a lot at stake, but I try not to think about it. I just try to get outs, throw zeroes. I focus on competing and do what I can to control what I can control. If I can get outs and keep us in the game, that's all I can do. It kind of hits you when you go home and turn on ESPN and see yourself, though. It's not like that in Double-A.

As for the playoffs, I'm not worried where I'll be. My season ended Sept. 3. For me this is extra. If they need me to eat innings and throw some zeroes, I'm going to do whatever. I can't decide where I'm going to be playoff time. You want to be there, of course, but there are 25 guys who have been doing this all year; they deserve to be there. I'll do whatever they ask me to do because this is fun for me.

Kevin Hart, who turns 25 on Nov. 29, has given the Cubs an effective right-handed option out of the bullpen during the stretch run. He's given up one run in 7 2/3 innings over his first five outings in the Majors, while striking out eight. Hart pitched two scoreless innings on Sept. 17 to help give the Cubs a chance to mount a 7-6 comeback win over the Reds. An 11th round pick by the Orioles in 2004, Hart came over to the Cubs organization this season and was promptly named the team's Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He went 12-6 with a 3.99 ERA with the Double-A and Triple-A clubs, winning 10 of his last 11 decisions. He also led the organization with 131 strikeouts.