Notes: Cubs bullpen needs rest
Piniella wants to make sure his relievers aren't overtaxed
ATLANTA -- Every manager loves to see a complete game from his starting pitcher, but Cubs manager Lou Piniella was especially eager to see one from Wednesday night's starter Carlos Zambrano.
Sure, he wanted his ace right-hander to regain some swagger after the sixth-inning meltdown in his last start against Cincinnati.
But Piniella was less concerned about soothing Zambrano's ego than he was about saving the arms in his bullpen following the group's heroic effort in Tuesday afternoon's marathon against the San Diego Padres.
"Yesterday, we played 14 innings against San Diego and we used our bullpen quite a bit," said Pinella, who used six relievers to cover the game's final nine innings, with three of them -- Michael Wuertz, Bobby Howry and Ryan Dempster -- going two innings apiece. "So we need some innings from Zambrano, and a good ball game."
While the Cubs succumbed Tuesday when Will Ohman surrendered a run in the top of the 14th, Piniella was justifiably pleased with the work of his bullpen as it frustrated the Padres, shutting them out from the sixth inning through the 13th, despite allowing six hits and four walks.
"Our pitchers pitched through a lot of traffic," said Pinella. "I think they stranded what, 17 baserunners? We need to start scoring with more consistency. That's all we really need here, and things will start sorting themselves out pretty good."
The Cubs bullpen has bent but not broken all season, such as yesterday, when Wuertz stranded runners at first and second in the seventh -- he has not allowed any of the eight inherited runners he's entered games with to score this season -- while Scott Eyre did him one better, leaving the bases loaded in the ninth.
Cubs relievers entered Wednesday night's game having stranded 16 of 20 runners in all.
"They are pitching well, and Ohman will get himself straightened out," said Piniella. "He's struggled, but if you've got six or seven pieces out there and all but one is pitching well, I think you'd take that all the time, so I'm not complaining about anything."
That, of course was before Zambrano's four-run, four-hit, 25-pitch first inning on Wednesday.
Prior to Wednesday's game, Piniella stated that only Eyre, who used two pitches to get the final out in the ninth, was really rested.
Home away from home: Mark DeRosa saw a side of Turner Field on Wednesday night that he'd never seen before -- the visiting side.
A seventh-round pick by the Braves in the 1996 First-Year Player Draft, DeRosa played from 1998-2004 with the Braves before leaving for Texas in 2005.
"I've never been in [the visiting clubhouse], so it's definitely a little weird," he said, with a laugh. "Some of my best friends are on the other side. We talked about this all offseason. We worked out together. There's definitely some bragging rights for next offseason's workouts that are on the line here."
DeRosa, who received a rather pedestrian reception when introduced to the Turner Field crowd, batted second on Wednesday night and got off to a good start on winning those bragging rights by hammering a 1-0 pitch from Atlanta starter Kyle Davies into the seats in left-center field in the first inning.
Minor matters: Mike Mahoney, who began the season as Triple-A Iowa's first base and bench coach, has been activated because of the promotion of Felix Pie to the big-league team. Mahoney has played 12 years of pro ball since being drafted by the Braves in the 39th round of the 1995 First-Year Player Draft out of Creighton. Mahoney made his Major League debut for the Cubs on Sept. 8, 2000.
Also, Mark Pawelek, the Cubs' No. 1 draft pick in 2005, has been sent to Arizona for extended Spring Training. The inclement weather has hampered Pawelek and kept him from getting his work done, so he's been assigned to Mesa for now.
On deck: The Cubs and Braves wrap up the brief two-game set at Turner Field tomorrow night in a battle of lefties. Unbeaten Rich Hill (2-0, 0.64 ERA) takes the ball for Chicago, while Atlanta counters with winless Mark Redman (0-2, 12.96 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. CT.
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.