Rotation, lineup questions looming
Two spots in rotation still to be settled before Opening Day
MESA, Ariz. -- Jason Marquis, Jon Lieber and Ryan Dempster have all pitched well enough to warrant a spot in the Cubs' rotation. The problem is, there are only two openings. Do the math.
"It's not going to be an easy decision," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Tuesday. "Let's hope it's not an easy decision. In fairness to all these guys, truthfully, they deserve a spot in the rotation."
Marquis got the first crack at clinching a spot on Tuesday when he started against the Royals, and gave up one run on five hits and two walks over five-plus innings. He's aware of the scenario, and has heard his name mentioned in trade rumors.
"Starting pitching is needed all over," Marquis said. "I feel I can help this team get to where it needs to be. I feel I'm throwing the ball well. Obviously, there's a reason I signed with the Chicago Cubs. I want to be a Chicago Cub.
"If my name comes up [for a trade], and they call me into the office, then that's what we'll do," he said. "I'm prepared to be a starter for the Chicago Cubs and that's first and foremost. Anything that takes me in a different direction, we'll address it when that time comes."
Piniella would like to have the rotation and bullpen set by the end of the week. As of now, the Cubs' rotation is Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, a right-hander to be determined, Rich Hill, and another right-hander. One possibility is that the odd man out among Marquis, Lieber and Dempster is assigned to the 'pen.
The competition continues on Wednesday. The Cubs have a day-night doubleheader, and Dempster and Lieber will each start one of the games. Dempster will face the Oakland Athletics, while Lieber will pitch in a night game against the San Francisco Giants. Piniella did confirm the Cubs will open the season with a five-man rotation, not four.
"It's obviously not my decision," Marquis said. "I just go out there and take the ball when they tell me to and try to get guys out."
The rotation may not be set, but the lineup is. Marquis had what will likely be the Opening Day eight behind him as Ryan Theriot led off, followed by Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Mark DeRosa, Geovany Soto and Felix Pie. Whether or not they stay in that order remains to be seen.
"I'm going to go home and flip a coin," Piniella said, jokingly.
Soriano wasn't exactly the people's choice as a leadoff batter. He could've quieted his critics in the sixth inning on Tuesday when the Cubs had runners at first and second with no one out, but he struck out swinging.
"He fits in just about where we want to put him, one through five," Piniella said. "He's a free swinger, he hits the ball for power. Here's a guy who hit almost .300 last year, 33 home runs, 70 some RBIs, and I get asked about him all the time. I'm very happy with Alfonso. He's a really good player. He likes playing, he has fun playing.
"Let's not worry about where he hits in the lineup," Piniella said. "Let's worry about winning some baseball games."
Will the Cubs have a new name to insert? The team has been eyeing Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, and O's scout Bruce Kison was in the sellout crowd of 12,772 at HoHoKam Park.
Ramirez, who hit a three-run homer in the Cubs' 6-5 win over the Royals, didn't think the team needed another second baseman.
"DeRosa was pretty good last year, and the year before that," Ramirez said. "The guy can play -- he hit .290 with 75 runs batted in. That's a pretty good year for a second baseman and he's going to give you good defense.
"I don't know where [DeRosa] is going to play if we get Roberts," Ramirez said. "We've got everybody set in every position. It's a tough decision for them, for the [general manager]."
Ramirez's homer was his first this spring, but he's not as concerned about the Cubs' offense as Piniella has been lately.
"Everybody's different," Ramirez said. "I've played the game long enough to see guys hit .500 in Spring Training and go into the season and hit .250. You've just got to get ready. It doesn't matter what you do in Spring Training. You face guys who will play in Class A, Double-A. You just have to get ready."
Speaking of wins, Piniella was asked about the fact the Cubs franchise enters this season 15 wins shy of 10,000.
"We have 9,985 wins? We'll win 10,000 this year," Piniella said. "I hope they have less losses than 9,985. How many? Less? Good. Let's keep it that way."
For the record, the Cubs have lost 9,459 games in franchise history.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.