Notes: Tough start disappoints Piniella
Cubs skipper says changes could be coming
CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Lou Piniella is not frustrated with the players. He's disappointed in the season, though.
The Cubs entered Saturday's game riding a five-game losing streak, their longest of the season, and they were a season-low eight games under .500 at 22-30.
"Some of the things I've seen here, I haven't seen anywhere else I've managed, that I can tell you in a nice way," said Piniella, now in his 20th season managing in the big leagues. "I'm not fed up with it, but it's got to stop or we're going to make some changes.
"You want to win baseball games, but you can't shoot your foot all the time and that's all we do here," Piniella said. "We can be talking about this until the middle of August. We have to correct it or get different people in here.
"What can I say? I've been patient," he said. "I've had meetings after meetings. I've talked to the individuals. This is the Major Leagues. You expect certain things from Major League players. If you don't, you're not going to win baseball games. It's that plain and simple."
The Cubs have made baserunning errors, fielding errors in critical situations, have a 2-12 record in one-run games, and the bullpen is 4-13.
"I'm not frustrated," Piniella said. "I'm not happy with the way the team has played, and I'm not happy with the way we shoot outselves in the foot and beating ourselves and helping to beat ourselves. I don't think 'frustrated' is the right word.
"I expected more," he said. "These guys should expect more from themslves."
Cubs management spent $300 million this offseason on players, both free agents and re-signing others. The expectations were high.
"I'm disappointed in our record," Piniella said. "That's it. You'd like to see some guys get better and not continue to make mistakes. That's what this process is all about and not beating yourselves."
How would he grade his first 52 games as Cubs manager?
"I've gone through my freshman and sophomore year in two months," he said. "I've gotten a quick education."
The Cubs aren't the problem.
"I'm proud to be here," Piniella said. "I get a thrill every day putting on a uniform and walking onto Wrigley Field and watching this team play. This city is wonderful, and it's a great sports town. People love their baseball. We just have to give them a better product. That's what I was brought in here to do. I hope I'm not judged by my start. Just give me time to get this straightened out."
Mr. 500: Scott Eyre notched a milestone that went virtually unnoticed. On Monday, the Cubs left-hander appeared in his 500th career game.
"To me, it's a very big deal," Eyre said Saturday. "I didn't even know about it. I was checking the game notes, and they put the 'Milestones' in there. My dad actually texted me and said, 'Congrats on your 500th.' I said, 'What?'
"That was a goal of mine. I played with [Dan] Plesac and he pitched in more than 1,000 games."
Could he get to 1,000?
"I'd have to play until I was 42," he said. "I don't know if my wife will let me do that."
The left-hander had an up-and-down career with the White Sox when he was a starter, and with the Toronto Blue Jays, but has settled into the bullpen.
Eyre has saved balls from his 100th career game, his 200th, his 300th and his 400th. He never imagined 500. He did get the lineup card from that day, and had all the players, coaches and Piniella sign it. It's a keepsake he'll treasure.
Name game: Saturday marked the first time in Cubs history a pitcher and catcher with the same last name were paired together. Koyie Hill started behind the plate with Rich Hill on the mound. However, it's not the first time two players with the same last name formed the battery for the Cubs. Ron Davis and Jody Davis appeared as pitcher and catcher in the same game 33 times for the Cubs from Aug. 14, 1986, to Aug. 3, 1987. However, they never appeared as a starting battery together.
Future Cubs Mort Cooper and Walker Cooper frequently formed a starting battery for the Cardinals from 1940-45, and Giants in 1947, but did not play on the Cubs together. Mort played for the Cubs in 1949, while Walker was a Cub from 1954-55. Besides sharing a last name, the two were brothers.
Aches and pains: Matt Murton was a late scratch Saturday because of back problems. Angel Pagan started in center field and Jacque Jones started in right.
The Cubs already were playing short-handed because Cliff Floyd has a sore rib cage he felt in batting practice on Friday.
Minor matters: Five Daytona Cubs players were named to the Florida State League All-Star Game, to be played June 16. The group includes pitcher Mitch Atkins, Tyler Colvin, Chris Amador, Matt Matulia and Jesus Valdez. Colvin leads Daytona with 39 RBIs and ranks second in the FSL with 18 doubles. ... Pitcher Juan Mateo, who had shoulder problems, was activated from the disabled list and expected to start for Class A Peoria on Saturday.
On deck: Left-hander Sean Marshall will close the Cubs weekend series against the Braves on Sunday. John Smoltz was scratched and Lance Cormier will start for the Braves. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast on WGN.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.