Piniella backs Wood, Soriano
Cubs skipper plans to stick with closer, left fielder
ST. LOUIS -- Alfonso Soriano is still the Cubs left fielder, and Kerry Wood is still the team's closer, and that's that, Lou Piniella said.
On Thursday, Wood blew a two-run lead as the Milwaukee Brewers rallied in the ninth for a 4-3 victory over the Cubs to take the series. It was Wood's third blown save of the season, but Piniella said the right-hander isn't in danger of losing his job.
"I have confidence in Kerry," Piniella said. "These things are going to happen. You don't want to see them happen. You don't like when they happen. That was a tough loss for us. We went with [Carlos] Zambrano, I used [Carlos] Marmol an inning and two-thirds. They had the bottom part of the lineup coming up and I thought we were in good shape. Look, Kerry's our closer, and that's the end of the story."
Zambrano started the game and went 6 1/3 innings, and Marmol pitched 1 2/3 innings. But Wood hit the first batter he faced, Craig Counsell, with the first pitch, and it snowballed.
During the Brewers' comeback, pinch-hitter Gabe Kapler lined a ball to left that Soriano had to chase. Whether he could've caught the ball is debatable. It was the Cubs outfielder's first game back after being sidelined with a strained right calf, and after the game, Piniella was asked if he considered inserting Reed Johnson in left. Johnson had been lifted in the eighth, though, in a double-switch.
"You're [darn] right I thought about it," he said Thursday. "You think I'm stupid or something? God darn it."
And Piniella then exited. On Friday, he was asked about the Soriano controversy, and Piniella was much calmer.
"There's no controversy," Piniella said. "The question that was asked yesterday, the [reporter] who asked it knew the answer before I had to answer it. Why ask it? Why can't he report the news instead of trying to create news? That's why I told him obviously I knew.
"I'm not going to take Soriano out for defense," Piniella said. "[The reporter] knows it, you know it, and unless there's a double switch, that's the only way he's coming out of the ballgame. Everybody knows that. You don't take superstar players out of the lineup. You don't do it. It's a long, long season. I have confidence in Soriano.
"[Thursday], when I was asked a question, I probably should've responded a little differently, but I was a little hot under the collar," he said. "If you can't get hot under the collar as a Major League manager losing a two-run lead against a division rival who you're competing with for a championship, then you shouldn't be managing."
Apparently, Piniella's abbreviated post-game interview and response on Thursday has been replayed over and over on Friday. He didn't watch.
"When we lose, I don't want ESPN," Piniella said. "When we win, I'll watch it. If we're playing bad, I don't need to get re-aggravated."
There is a saying that there are no stupid questions, but Piniella wasn't too happy with the one on Thursday.
"He's our guy," Piniella said of Soriano. "He's my guy, he's my left fielder. I might have to get him for a double switch and that would be because he bats first and the pitcher is ninth.
"He's fine -- there's nothing wrong with his legs, absolutely nothing," Piniella said. "He ran down the line well. Let's get him hot. I've answered more questions about Soriano than anybody else on the team combined."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.