Notes: Cubs go with 12 pitchers
Right-handed reliever Guzman nails down final roster spot
MESA, Ariz. -- In the final head count, the Cubs decided to go with 12 pitchers, and tabbed right-handed reliever Angel Guzman for the Opening Day roster.
The team optioned outfielder Angel Pagan and pitchers Mark Prior and Rocky Cherry to Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday, while sticking with Guzman, who has a 5.29 ERA in seven games this spring. It's the first time Guzman has made the big-league Opening Day roster.
The pitching staff will include starters Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis, Rich Hill and Wade Miller, and relievers Ryan Dempster, Scott Eyre, Bob Howry, Neal Cotts, Will Ohman, Michael Wuertz and Guzman. Cotts and Guzman are the designated long men.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella also announced his Opening Day lineup for Monday's game against the Cincinnati Reds. Get your scorecard ready, it will be: Alfonso Soriano, Matt Murton, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Jacque Jones, Michael Barrett, Mark DeRosa, Cesar Izturis and Zambrano.
Of that group, Lee, Ramirez, Jones, Barrett and Zambrano were in the Opening Day lineup in 2006.
The other position players who have made the final 25-man roster include Henry Blanco, Ronny Cedeno, Cliff Floyd, Ryan Theriot and Daryle Ward.
The Cubs were expected to put Kerry Wood (shoulder), Buck Coats (right knee) and Juan Mateo (shoulder) on the disabled list for the start of the season. Coats will undergo surgery Thursday on his knee, which has a cyst.
Spring cleaning: The Cubs head to Las Vegas for exhibition games Friday and Saturday against the Seattle Mariners, the final tuneup before the regular season. Now that Piniella has had several weeks to see the players, what does he think?
"I like the way things are working here," Piniella said.
His objectives coming into camp were to get players in shape, stay healthy, cut down on walks by the pitchers, have the hitters be more selective and improve executing plays. They've done that, Piniella said.
"I think we've played some good fundamental baseball," he said. "We've moved runners, we've hit behind runners. And as Spring Training has gone forward toward its climax, I think we've played a little better baseball. The things we needed to accomplish in Spring Training, I think have been accomplished. Now we're ready for a championship season. This is a tough division we're in. Now we have to go out and get better as a team."
Welcome aboard: Miller is happy to have made the Cubs' rotation, but he's not finished.
"It's nice to be able to help the team right away," Miller said. "I'm not going to be happy until it's all said and done at the end of the season. I am looking forward to it. I'm ready to get the ball rolling."
Miller, 30, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder at the end of 2005, and appeared in five games last September for the Cubs as part of his rehab. He'll make one more Cactus League start on Thursday when the Cubs play host to the Diamondbacks.
"It's another step to start the season healthy," Miller said. "I'm looking for a lot of games. That's my goal right now. My first goal was to make this team out of camp, and now I have more goals to fulfill."
After each start, Miller has said he felt strong.
"Now, all I have to do is pass the tests of a full season," he said. "We're headed in the right direction now and I'm happy for that."
Batting gloves: A few of the Cubs pitchers went down to the Minor League facility to work on their hitting. Coach Ivan DeJesus has been drilling the pitchers on a regular basis.
"He's really been working a lot on bunting, push bunting, just making sure we get our bunts down consistently," pitcher Rich Hill said. "He pulls us to the back field, and we'll have 20 bunts one side, 20 bunts the other side, and do it again and do it again until we consistently get it down until it becomes second nature. That's the way it feels just because of the time we've spent in Spring Training."
The pitchers aren't thinking only about bunting, either. They want to contribute.
"We've been hitting a lot, too, on the backfield, and working on moving the runners over and putting the ball on the ground, trying to hit behind the runner," Hill said. "We'll have fun at the end of batting practice, but when we're doing it, it's a matter of putting the ball on the ground."
Hill doesn't want to be an automatic out.
"I can count a lot of times last year when I came up to bat and there were runners at second and third and two outs, or even an out, and I struck out and ended an inning because I couldn't put the bat on the ball," he said. "It doesn't help the team. It helps the pitcher out, but more importantly it helps the team."
Extra bases: Zambrano made his final tuneup for Opening Day by throwing five scoreless innings in a Triple-A game at Fitch Park on Wednesday. He gave up two hits and one walk while striking out three. ... Soriano and Floyd had tough days in the outfield Wednesday. Before the game, Piniella said he was impressed with Soriano's work habits. "If work is a prerequisite, he's passed with flying colors," Piniella said. ... Bears coach Lovie Smith was among the fans at HoHoKam Park Wednesday. ... Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will join the thousands of runners in Saturday's Race to Wrigley. The five-kilometer run will begin and end at Wrigley Field. ... Arlene Gill, who is general manager Jim Hendry's executive assistant and has worked for the Cubs for 35 years, threw out a ceremonial first pitch Wednesday. She also was presented with a new set of golf clubs. Gill is retiring at the end of the 2007 season.
On deck: The Cubs wrap up the Arizona portion of the exhibition season Thursday when they play host to the Diamondbacks at HoHoKam Park. Game time is moved up one hour to 2:05 p.m. CT.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.