Notes: Theriot gets shot at short
Piniella tries to jump-start offense with young infielder in lineup
CHICAGO -- Maybe Ryan Theriot is the answer.
Theriot was in the Cubs' starting lineup at shortstop for Wednesday's game against the Brewers as manager Lou Piniella tried to find a spark for the offense.
"We need a lift," Piniella said. "We need somebody who hopefully can get us going a little bit. I've been trying to figure out where to play him. He's been getting work at shortstop. We'll put him out there at shortstop and let him play."
Theriot played two games at shortstop last year for the Cubs, and has played there in the Minor Leagues.
"Any time you get a chance to get in there and get a spot consistently, and get used to something day in and day out, it's a good opportunity, as opposed to playing four different spots in four days," Theriot said.
It helps that Theriot is batting .333, while Cesar Izturis is hitting .184 and Ronny Cedeno .103.
"The only [difference] is the throw," Theriot said about shortstop vs. second base. "It takes a little getting used to. Two years ago, that's where I was every day. It's something I'm comfortable with and excited about."
Whether this is a long-term solution remains to be seen.
"I need to get him in in the lineup," Piniella said of Theriot. "We're not scoring many runs. I need something to jump-start us a little bit and we're trying this out. The kid can swing a bat, and he's got some energy. I like the way he plays the game. The problem is, where do you put him? He came up as a shortstop, we'll play him at shortstop, and see what he can do."
This isn't an extension of some of the experimenting Piniella did in Spring Training.
"You know what we haven't done? We haven't hit," Piniella said. "That's what the problem is here. We haven't held on to a few leads that possibly we could have. Everybody was concerned about our defense, and actually we've played pretty well. We just haven't scored runs, and we haven't scored runs on a consistent basis. You don't need to score runs just with the home run ball. We haven't hit with men in scoring position."
On Tuesday, in a 4-1 loss to the Brewers, the Cubs were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
"I don't know if it's one player going in, or moving positions," Theriot said about finding the spark. "It's an attitude that us as a team need to get that winning mentality. When he messes with the lineup and tinkers with the lineup, it kick-starts guys. I think it changes that mentality and thought process for us as players. It gives us a little more confidence. In a roundabout way, he's getting us going like that."
Theriot would like regular playing time, and will take it wherever he can get it.
"Nobody comes out here saying, 'I want to be a bench player or I want to be a utility guy or somebody who comes in late in the game and steals a base or plays defense,'" Theriot said. "Everybody wants to be the guy out there when the game's on the line at the plate or making a play or something. If you make it, you're a hero, and if not, you go out and do it again. You want that opportunity. That's why we're here."
Scorecard: Alfonso Soriano was not in Wednesday's starting lineup as a precautionary measure because of the wet grass from the overnight rain. He looked a little tentative when he was running the bases Tuesday after hitting a double.
"Actually, when we get to St. Louis on Friday, he's ready to go," Piniella said. "I'm sure he's still feeling himself out for a few days. I think we can expect him to steal bases and do everything else he's done in the past."
Soriano missed six games with a strained left hamstring. Matt Murton has been bothered by a stiff back, but Piniella said the outfielder will get some playing time soon.
Power outage: Derrek Lee and the Cubs' outfield of Soriano, Felix Pie and Jacque Jones have zero home runs. Zero.
"[On Tuesday], in that lineup, we had five players who didn't have a home run," Piniella said, including Izturis in the mix. "We had an outfield with one, three, six RBIs. That situation obviously has got to change."
Michael Barrett, Mark DeRosa and Aramis Ramirez have four homers each to lead the Cubs. Chicago has been outhomered at home, 12-9, and rank ninth in the National League in long balls.
"There are some good hitters here," Lee said. "We're getting our hits, but not in bunches. We have to find a way to execute and get those guys in."
Cliff Floyd, who has one homer, says it's just a matter of time.
"At the end of the season, you'll see a guy of D-Lee's caliber with 30 home runs," Floyd said. "I've been here as an opposing player, and the first thing you say is, 'Man, that's a bandbox.' We're here all the time and we see it. Home runs come in bunches, and before it's all said and done, this team will have some bombs in this park."
The reality is that the wind hasn't favored hitters, and in fact, blows in, knocking balls down. This season, the wind has blown out twice, and the Cubs are 0-2 in both games, getting outhomered, 5-2.
"If we win, home runs don't matter," Floyd said.
Arms race: Scott Eyre felt better after his outing Tuesday. The left-hander had an early bullpen session and corrected a minor mechanical flaw.
"My slider was much better last night, and it was still an intersting inning, but maybe I needed that," said Eyre, who loaded the bases but escaped the mess when he got Bill Hall to hit into a force at third.
"The nicest thing about the whole thing was my teammates came up to me and said, 'Good job,'" Eyre said. "A couple guys said, 'We need you, and we need you to do what you just did.' Right here, in the heart, it felt good. It's cliche about having the respect of your teammates, but it really truly is. To have them tell you, 'We need you to do a good job,' and 'We need you to win,' it makes you feel a lot better about yourself."
Eyre was hoping he would get in the game.
"The phone rang in the ninth inning, and I closed my eyes and said, 'Please, Lord, let me pitch right now,'" Eyre said. "Lester [Strode, bullpen coach] said my name, and I said, 'Yes, it worked.'"
And the tweak? Eyre now will be more upright instead of lifting his leg and leaning back and almost falling off.
"It's something I can't feel when I'm pitching," Eyre said, "but I watched video and Larry [Rothschild, pitching coach] saw the same thing. We'll use last night as a building block."
Extra bases: Left-hander Sean Marshall was scheduled to start Wednesday night for Class A Daytona. Marshall has been in extended Spring Training to strengthen his shoulder. ... Baserunning instructor Bobby Dernier's work is done. He left the Cubs' big-league team on Wednesday and was headed to Class A Peoria for a few days.
Minor matters: Jeff Samardzija gave up three runs, one earned, on five hits and three walks over 5 1/3 innings in a 3-0 loss to Palm Beach. Samardzija is 0-1 with a 2.21 ERA in four starts. He did strike out four, a season high. ... Carlos Marmol gave up four runs on five hits over 5 1/3 innings in Triple-A Iowa's 7-1 loss to Nashville. ... Donnie Veal gave up six runs on six hits over 3 1/3 innings while striking out five in Tennessee's 6-1 loss to Mobile. ... Peoria's game against Kane County was cancelled because of rain.
On deck: The Cubs and Cardinals renew their rivalry on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT in St. Louis. Jason Marquis and Anthony Reyes will square off in a rematch of last Saturday's game at Wrigley Field. Marquis won that game, throwing seven shutout innings.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.