Cubs set to announce pitching choices
Wood expected to be closer; three up for two rotation spots
PEORIA, Ariz. -- After 5 1/2 weeks, 26 games and 228 2/3 innings, Lou Piniella is ready to finalize the Cubs' pitching on Monday, and unless Kerry Wood wakes up unable to move, he is expected to be named the closer.
Piniella acknowledged before Sunday's game against the Padres, which the Cubs won, 7-3, that he knows what he's going to do, but wanted to wait until pitching coach Larry Rothschild has a chance to talk to all participants.
Wood pitched one inning Sunday, and struck out two of the four batters he faced. He also gave up a hit, but in 10 innings over 10 games, the right-hander has not walked a batter.
"Woody has had a really nice spring," Piniella said. "He excites the crowd when he comes in."
Has Wood made the decision easy for Piniella to pick between the three right-handers, Wood, Bob Howry and Carlos Marmol?
"We'll make it for you tomorrow," Piniella said. "I would think if it's Woody, he's earned it."
As Wood came off the field Sunday, he was greeted by former teammate Glendon Rusch, who now is in the Padres' bullpen.
"Since you pitched the seventh, does that mean you're the setup guy?" Rusch asked Wood.
Only Piniella and his staff know the answer to that.
"I'm excited to get the season started," Wood said when asked if he was excited to finally get the news. "Spring Training is long, and especially when you get this close to the end."
Wood has started 178 games in his career since breaking into the big leagues in 1998 -- including the much-celebrated 20-strikeout game in May of his rookie year -- but was used strictly as a reliever for the first time last season. That's when Wood made the switch, mentally, from starting.
"I think I made the adjustment last year towards the end of the season, and I got comfortable in that role, coming out of the 'pen," said Wood, slowed the last few seasons because of his shoulder. "I've been trying to pick up where I left off and develop a routine that I can stay consistent with on a daily basis."
What does zero walks this spring mean to him?
"It's control of everything," Wood said. "Staying smooth out there with my delivery and taking what I do warming up out to the mound in games. I'm just trying to stay consistent."
Jason Marquis made his final pitch for one of the two spots in the rotation against the Padres, giving up three runs on Adrian Gonzalez's first-inning homer. Marquis served up four hits over 4 1/3 innings, and struck out five. He retired the last 11 batters he faced.
The right-hander is competing with Ryan Dempster and Jon Lieber for the two final rotation openings. The Cubs will begin the season with Carlos Zambrano on Opening Day, followed by Ted Lilly, then one of the right-handers, lefty Rich Hill fourth and the other right-hander. Whoever is odd man out will likely end up in the bullpen.
"[Marquis] hasn't done anything in spring -- except get me mad once -- to lead me to believe he won't be in the rotation," Piniella said.
Piniella was joking about the mad part. The disagreement occurred after Marquis' first start March 1 against the Angels when the right-hander said he could take his services elsewhere if he wasn't in the Cubs' rotation. Piniella reacted angrily after hearing that, but apologized the next day.
"When you're in this business here," Piniella said Sunday, "you turn pages real quick and you let people compete. It's been really good competition for the starters. I enjoyed seeing Lieber and Dempster and Marquis all compete for jobs. The amazing part about it is nobody deserves to be in the bullpen, but that's going to be the case."
Dempster and Lieber are both slated to pitch Monday, with Dempster facing the Rangers at HoHoKam Park. Lieber will get his innings in at the Minor League facility. Marquis can only wait.
"I'm trying to make their decision easy," Marquis said. "I threw the ball well, not only this spring, but my track record speaks for itself over the last four years, taking the ball every five days. When I came this spring, I'm out there competing against myself and the hitters in the box, and I think I did that to the best of my ability."
He isn't saying he's better than the others.
"It's no knock on any of the guys in camp here," Marquis said. "They have a case to be made, too. We'll see what happens."
Does he have any indication of what the Cubs might do?
"No clue," Marquis said.
We'll find out Monday.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.