Notes: Theriot shrugs off back issues
Rotation likely in flux; Blanco mentors, praises Soto
MIAMI -- Ryan Theriot was back in the Cubs lineup Tuesday, and he downplayed the seriousness of his back problems.
Theriot tweaked his back in the third inning of Saturday's game when he stepped on the bag after a single. He stayed in the game and got two more hits and stole a base. He did not start Sunday, but the shortstop said he could've played.
"It was more precautionary than anything," Theriot said Tuesday. "I've played with it worse this year."
Ronny Cedeno provided a lift, coming through with three hits, including a two-run homer and an RBI single on Sunday.
"If his back is stiff, we can go back to Cedeno," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "I feel comfortable with either of them."
The Cubs entered Tuesday's game with a three-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers, and the magic number to clinch the National League Central is at four. No one is looking ahead, Theriot said.
"We're still focused on our goals. You can't get ahead of yourself -- you have to focus on the task at hand," he said. "You have a young team that's hungry, and a lot of good young players. We need to focus all our energy here and try to win ballgames."
Looking ahead: Piniella hinted the rotation may change after Wednesday. Jason Marquis is slated to start the second game of the Cubs' series against the Marlins, and Steve Trachsel is listed as Thursday's starter. Rich Hill, Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly are penciled in for the weekend series against Cincinnati.
"We'll probably tinker with our pitching here between now and Sunday," Piniella said. "The way we're scheduled, I wouldn't go to the bank."
If the Cubs did clinch early, it would help them get the rotation aligned for the NL Division Series.
Backstop: Henry Blanco has worked with catcher Geovany Soto for a couple years and sees a lot of promise for the rookie.
"I think he's ready," Blanco said. "He's worked hard."
Blanco, 36, has told Soto about the importance of being in shape and how he needed to lose weight. The 24-year-old listened.
"I hope he realizes what he did and that it's going to be good for him and his knees, especially if he catches every day," Blanco said. "We talk a lot, and he wants to learn. Not too many kids listen or ask -- they think they know everything.
"It's fun for me to watch him. He understands what it takes."
Jason Kendall has been helping Soto as well, offering tips.
"Kendall helps him out, which is good to see," Piniella said. "We're not playing [Soto] only because he's swinging the bat, but because he is doing a nice job with our pitchers. This has been a good rest for Kendall, too. His thumb has been beat up."
Good cause: Derrek Lee joined "Hope for Vision," a national non-profit organization, to find a cure for blinding disease. Lee and Miami native Isaac Lidsky, Hope for Vision's chairman, hosted a news conference Tuesday at Dolphin Stadium.
"Derrek and his family truly are an inspiration," Lidsky said. "Faced with blinding disease, they dedicated themselves to raising awareness of and funding for research to give sight to millions. Their examples gives us Hope for Vision, and we are eternally grateful to have their support and friendship."
Lee was part creator of Project 3000, hoping to raise awareness of Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, a rare eye disease which has affected his daughter, Jada.
"It's a long road, and we need to keep tackling it," Lee said. "With an organization like 'Hope for Vision,' we'll eventually find treatment and cures for blindness."
Lee's Project 3000 is still trying to find people with LCA in hopes of finding a cure.
"We need everyone's support," Lee said. "It's going to take everyone to get this thing done."
Welcome back: Cubs radio analyst Ron Santo was back in the broadcast booth Tuesday after missing three games at Wrigley Field.
"I had congestion in my chest mixed with a virus, and it took all the energy out of me," Santo said.
He spent two days in bed recuperating and did try to drive to the ballpark, but his wife, Vicki, convinced him to rest.
"She said, 'You're on a quarter of a tank, and you want to be full,'" Santo said.
Santo also doesn't want to miss a possible division-clinching game. He had to skip the Cubs' 2003 playoffs because of health issues, and the players hung his No. 10 jersey in the dugout for the games.
Quote of the day: "There are no curses here. There never has been. It's good copy. Games are won and lost on the baseball field." -- Piniella, on the legendary curse of the billy goat
Extra bases: Did you hear the story about Alex Rodriguez possibly purchasing the Cubs? "There's nothing to it," team president John McDonough said. "I laughed [when I heard it]. It's outrageous." ... Gary Hughes, special assistant to general manager Jim Hendry, will receive a lifetime achievement award at baseball's Winter Meetings from Baseball America. ... The Wrigley Field outfield is being resodded as much as can be done while the team is out of town this week. However, the grounds crew can't do too much because of the possibility of a playoff game Monday against the Brewers. That game would be necessary if the Cubs and Brewers finish in a tie. ... Cubs reliever Michael Wuertz presented umpire clubhouse attendant Jimmy Farrell with the game ball after Sunday's regular-season finale at Wrigley Field. Farrell is retiring after this season. ... It took 30 minutes to sell out potential NL Division Series tickets at Wrigley on Sunday. ... Saturday's game at Cincinnati will start at 2:55 p.m. CT to accommodate a national television broadcast. The game will still be shown on WGN in Chicago.
On deck: Marquis will start Wednesday in the second game of the Cubs' three-game series against Daniel Barone and the Florida Marlins. First pitch will be 6:05 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.