05/10/2003 1:49 PM ET
Cubs notes: Bellhorn moves up
Veres throws two innings of simulated game
CHICAGO -- Sammy Sosa's absence wasn't the only change in the Chicago Cubs lineup on Saturday.
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Sosa did not start Saturday because of a sore big toe and was placed on the 15-day disabled list after surgery to remove the toenail. Troy O'Leary started in right field and batted third.
Mark Bellhorn led off for the first time this season, replacing Mark Grudzielanek at the top of the order.
"'Grud' has been struggling lately," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "I wanted to take some pressure off 'Grud.' It's not a demotion, it's just temporary."
How did Baker pick Bellhorn? When he went fishing Thursday, his guide Steve Sarley, told Baker that Bellhorn batted leadoff last year and did well. Baker admitted he didn't know that, did some homework and decided to experiment.
In 52 games at the leadoff spot in 2002, Bellhorn batted .276 (58-for-210), with 48 runs scored, 14 homers, 22 RBIs and 35 walks. He was inserted into that spot July 6 through early September.
"I'm open to suggestions," Baker said. "I have 10 weeks of knowledge here. Some people have 85, 90 years."
Virtual baseball: Dave Veres threw two innings of a simulated game Saturday, the first of two he was expected to need before beginning an injury rehab assignment. Veres is on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis.
Baker had Tom Goodwin and Ramon Martinez face the right-hander. Both players faced Veres in the National League Championship Series last year when they played for the San Francisco Giants and the pitcher was part of the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen.
"They made me work and face 'Goody' and Ramon," Veres said.
"I've got to give you some competition," Baker said.
Veres admitted he's not 100 percent, but felt good.
"I need to fine-tune things," he said.
It is strange for Veres to be sitting in the Cubs bullpen looking at all that red on the other side of the field. He spent three seasons with St. Louis.
"It is kind of weird," he said, "but I've been on five teams, so it's nothing new."
Both the Cubs and Cardinals are special, Veres said.
"It's the history of the teams," Veres said. "Not against each other but in St. Louis you have the history of the St. Louis Cardinals. Same with the Cubs. The players who came through here are the best who ever played in the game. When you play for a team that has some history, it's a little more meaningful."
Staying in balance: Moises Alou was batting .273 (9-for-33) in eight games in May so far with one RBI. He was 6-for-12 in his last three games. That's encouraging.
"I'm a little bit off balance right now," Alou said Saturday. "I'm not balanced at the plate. It's something (Baker) told me that I was doing wrong, and I'm trying to correct it.
"But at the same time, it's tough to be on all year long," Alou said. "Sometimes you're going to go through periods like this. You're going to think about hands, something about your stance, something about not being aggressive."
While Alou welcomes the tips from Baker, he does need to edit the amount of info that he gets.
"Sometimes when you struggle, you get too much information, too many tips like Sammy (Sosa) says, he's got too many batting coaches," Alou said. "I've got my wife telling me what to do, my dad, not my kids yet. But myself, my hitting coaches, (Jeff) Bagwell. Don't get me wrong -- you appreciate everybody trying to help you, but sometimes you put too many things in your head, and you forget to see the ball and hit it."
Bagwell and Alou were teammates on the Houston Astros and still calls the Cubs outfielder almost daily.
"He played with me, he knows how my stance is, where my hands are, if I'm too low, if I'm too high," Alou said. "Same with my wife. She watches every game. Sometimes, it can hurt you when you get too much advice from different people."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.