Notes: Zambrano not focused on past
Cubs ace doesn't begrudge Piniella's hook in '07 NLDS
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Before Wednesday's game, Cubs manager Lou Piniella confirmed that he would not lift Carlos Zambrano early against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"We're going to let him go three innings today," Piniella said. "I'm not going to pull him."
In Game 1 of the National League Division Series last October, Zambrano was removed after six innings against the D-backs, because Piniella wanted the right-hander to start Game 4. However, there was no Game 4, as Arizona swept Chicago.
"That's in the past," Zambrano said. "I still maintain he made the right decision. He's the manager. Like I said, sometime you make one decision and if everything goes well, it's a good decision. If something happens bad, it's the wrong decision. All the blame goes to the manager -- it's part of the game, but he's the manager."
But Zambrano couldn't help but think about the NLDS when he was warming up.
"I was thinking this team took us out of the playoffs last year," Zambrano said. "This is a new year, and a new season and we're looking forward to doing a better job this year."
In his three innings, Zambrano gave up one hit, one walk and struck out three. He helped himself in the third when he launched an 0-2 pitch from Arizona's Matt Scherzer to the back of the right-field berm for his first spring homer. His friends teased him in the clubhouse that the wind was blowing out.
"I do have to make corrections and not swing so hard," Zambrano said. "Today, that ball, I just put it in play and it went far. It was a hanging breaking ball, too. Like I say, you make a mistake in the big leagues, you pay for it."
Back to pitching. The right-hander, who will start Opening Day for the Cubs, said he feels he's ahead of schedule.
"I'm way ahead of where I was last year," Zambrano said. "I'm building my arm for the season, and there's no rush."
Arms race: Spring Training games don't count after March 30, but that doesn't matter to Piniella. Chicago pitchers were giving up an average of seven runs a game before Wednesday's 5-4 loss to Arizona.
"These Spring Training games don't count in the standings, but they're important," he said before the game. "You can formulate ideas on some of these pitchers, and when the time comes, even if some of these guys don't make the team, you're familiar with them, you like their stuff, you like their demeanor on the mound and you say, 'All right, let's get them back up here.'"
However, if a pitcher struggles, that leaves a bad impression.
"I don't like the idea of our pitching staff getting hit around, whether it's Spring Training or playing tiddly winks," Piniella said. "I guess I'm naive in a way. I've been doing this for a long, long time, but I see these guys throw on the side, and you say, 'My gosh, what a nice collection of arms,' and the games start and they start stepping on their toes. You'd like to see them do better."
On Wednesday, Zambrano, Rich Hill and Michael Wuertz held the D-backs to one run on one hit over seven innings. Arizona then scored four runs in the eighth against Ed Campusano and Tim Lahey, and were aided by a fielding error by third baseman Casey McGehee.
"I'm getting tired of losing ballgames, even in Spring Training," Piniella said.
Some of the pitchers aren't helping their cause.
"They will soon -- I'm not sure it's going to be here," Piniella said.
The Cubs may make cuts soon. Piniella said he expected to meet with general manager Jim Hendry on either Thursday or over the weekend to discuss the roster. Piniella also said he may start scheduling when pitchers get into games. Carlos Marmol, one of the closer candidates, was slated to pitch on Wednesday, but they ran out of innings.
Aches and pains: Alfonso Soriano tested his right hand by throwing during Wednesday's workout in Mesa. If all goes well, Soriano could resume hitting this weekend. He's sidelined with a nondisplaced fracture in a finger on his right hand.
Third baseman Aramis Ramirez has been pushed back, and was expected to play on Friday. He's been sidelined with a sore right shoulder.
Mark DeRosa took batting practice on Wednesday for the second straight day, but wasn't expected to see pitching until the early part of next week. He isn't expected in a game until the middle of next week. DeRosa underwent a procedure last Thursday for his irregular heartbeat.
"I'd like to get these guys in the lineup here in the near future and see what this team looks like," Piniella said.
Extra bases: Kerry Wood showed a nice, quick slider and his fastball touched 98 mph on the radar gun during his outing on Tuesday. "[The ball] was coming out of his hand really well and really alive," Piniella said. ... The Cubs are not expected to carry both Felix Pie and Sam Fuld on the big league roster, and the team is still looking for a right-handed bat to help in center field. ... Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild met with Jose Ascanio on Wednesday. The right-hander gave up four runs on four hits and one walk in one inning on Tuesday. ... Hitting coach Gerald Perry has noticed that Kosuke Fukudome is breaking a lot of bats, including the one he used to hit a home run on Tuesday. Fukudome apparently is taking some of his bats home to keep them in a more humid atmosphere. The dry Arizona weather may be contributing to the breakage. The bats are made of tamo, a Japanese ash, and are individually wrapped.
On deck: The Cubs travel to Phoenix to face the Oakland Athletics on Thursday at 2:05 p.m. CT. Jason Marquis, looking to secure a spot in the rotation, was slated to make his second spring start against A's lefty Gio Gonzalez.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.