Notes: Buzz follows Bonds to Wrigley
Slugger sits out opener, but Piniella, players discuss chase
CHICAGO -- So, if you're one of the Cubs pitchers, how do you approach Barry Bonds?
"Carefully," Chicago first baseman Derrek Lee said.
Bonds and the San Francisco Giants opened a four-game series Monday night against the Cubs, and even though the slugger wasn't in the lineup, he was the center of attention. Bonds has 751 career home runs and is closing in on Hank Aaron's all-time record of 755.
"I'd have had to play 80 years to get to where he's at," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Monday. "This is the record of all records. People are enamored with the home run ball, and rightfully so. It's gotten the attention it's deserved, and it will get more as he gets close to it. He's really close now, but I'm talking about one away or even tying."
Why rightfully so?
"Why is the heavyweight division in boxing the one people pay attention to the most? They like the knockouts," Piniella said. "The home run is the knockout."
Piniella has had to manage against Bonds since the slugger's days with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He's well aware of what he's capable of.
"He's a Hall of Fame player, there's no question about it," Piniella said. "Forget the home runs. At one time, Barry was the best player in baseball. That alone speaks volumes for being in the Hall of Fame. And he was the best player in baseball for a lot of years, not just one or two. He's had a great career."
As for the allegations and suspicions surrounding Bonds, Piniella said he doesn't dwell on it.
"I don't pay attention to that part of it," he said.
Most of the Cubs players take that approach as well.
"What I focus on is the man is a baseball player, one of the greatest who ever played, and my job is to get him out," said Cubs reliever Will Ohman. "I don't deal with the controversy or what the fans think."
The Cubs will take each at-bat separately and decide what to do at that time.
"We'll do what we can to win baseball games here for the Chicago Cubs," Piniella said. "If it means pitching to him, we'll pitch to him, and if that means walking him, we'll walk him. We're here to win baseball games."
Piniella was in the broadcast booth for a Giants game last year during his stint with FOX TV and remembered that Bonds wasn't in the lineup. He couldn't quite recall the name of the ballpark there.
"What is it, Pac Bell?" Piniella said.
Told that it's now AT&T, he corrected himself.
"AT&T," Piniella said. "I just wrote a check to AT&T."
The Cubs don't mind being a part of history -- to some degree.
"I'd like to see it," Chicago's Alfonso Soriano said, "but I want to win the game. I'd like to see him break the record here but we win the game."
Money talks: Carlos Zambrano said he expects to stay with the Cubs and will sign a new contract with the team. When that will be, Big Z doesn't know.
"I have faith I will sign back with the Cubs," Zambrano said.
The right-hander talked to his agent, Barry Praver, two days ago, and there was no news about a new deal. Zambrano will be a free agent after this season.
"[Praver] said he talked to Jim [Hendry, general manager] but not about my contract," Zambrano said. "Like I said, we'll see at the end of the season. We'll see after that."
Zambrano had set Opening Day as a deadline for a new contract, but nothing was resolved. Why is he so sure it'll get done?
"I didn't say, 'Now,' I didn't say, 'Next week,' I didn't say, 'Next month.' I said, 'At the end of the season,'" Zambrano said.
The Tribune Co.'s decision to sell the ballclub may have complicated negotiations. All that matters to Zambrano is that he can remain with the Cubs.
"I want to stay here," he said. "We'll see what happens at the end of the season, with how I finish this season and how I can help this team go to the playoffs, and we'll see after that."
Aches and pains: Wade Miller gave up two runs on four hits over three innings for Class A Peoria on Monday. He struck out five in his rehab start.
"He got his work in," Piniella said. "I think everybody was pleased."
Cliff Floyd, who jammed his shoulder in the ground making a diving catch, was available to pinch-hit. He's not expected to be able to start until the middle of the week.
Ryan Dempster will join Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday and make a rehab start. If all goes well, he is expected to pitch Thursday and then be activated from the disabled list. Dempster has been out with a strained oblique.
Extra bases: Peoria Chiefs manager Ryne Sandberg and several of his players were in attendance on Monday. They had the day off. ... The Cubs' game Aug. 5 will be broadcast on ESPN and start at 7:05 p.m. CT. The July 30 game vs. Philadelphia has been changed and will start at 6:05 p.m. CT.
Minor matters: Felix Pie and Scott Moore hit two home runs each in Iowa's 13-2 victory over Omaha on Sunday. Pie hit a two-run homer in the first, a solo shot in the third and doubled in the ninth. Moore also added a double. Juan Mateo gave up one run on eight hits over six innings for the win. ... Ryan O'Malley gave up four runs on six hits over six innings in Double-A Tennessee's 7-6 win over Mobile. Jake Fox and Matt Craig each had three hits. ... Class A Daytona's game was postponed because of rain. ... Alessandro Maestri threw two perfect innings to pick up the win in Peoria's 6-5 victory over Quad Cities. ... Dustin Sasser threw five shutout innings in Class A Boise's 7-2 win over Tri-City.
On deck: Lefty Sean Marshall will make his first start of the second half on Tuesday night when the Cubs play the second of their four-game series against Barry Zito and the San Francisco Giants. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast on Comcast Sports Net.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.