03/27/07 9:37 PM ET
Notes: Which Angel will be on the field?
Ramirez heating up at camp; Hill shows control on mound
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
That seems to be the final decision for Cubs manager Lou Piniella and his staff. There are 31 players still in camp, and the main debate is whether to carry 11 or 12 pitchers. That affects Guzman and Pagan.
If the Cubs go with 12 pitchers, Guzman would appear to have the edge. He's appeared in six games, including one start, but has thrown better in his last two starts since moving more to the right side of the rubber. In 4 1/3 innings, he's given up two runs on four hits and not walked a batter. Pagan can play all three outfield positions, and would be used as a defensive substitute late in the game if he makes the final roster. He started in center field Tuesday, and was batting .222 this spring.
However, Piniella got a little confused with which position he's looking at on Tuesday. Michael Wuertz, whom Piniella has already said made the team, wasn't sharp pitching in relief. Piniella was asked if he would reconsider the decision.
"I'm not going to get into any of that right now," Piniella said, "but the more I see this thing, I'm looking at the possibility of 12 outfielders."
Twelve outfielders? If outfielder Felix Pie hears that, he'll be camping outside Piniella's office door. Then Piniella laughed heartily -- he meant 12 pitchers.
Piniella wants everything set before the team plays two exhibition games Friday and Saturday in Las Vegas.
"We've been fortunate," Piniella said. "A lot of teams have tougher decisions than us."
The other players in camp whose Opening Day status is still to be officially determined include Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Rocky Cherry, Juan Mateo and Buck Coats. Wood, Mateo and Coats could start on the disabled list. An MRI revealed a cyst in the back of Coats' right knee, and it was to be removed. Coats said he hopes that will alleviate the pain he's been experiencing.
Mateo, who has been in one game this spring, has a right shoulder impingement, and he has just started throwing off flat ground. Mateo, who will begin the season on the disabled list, has been busy running the stadium steps with strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss.
"One thing, he's gotten our strength coach in shape," Piniella said.
Wood was feeling better, and could resume throwing, although not off a mound. His status is truly day to day. He has some soreness and fatigue in his right shoulder after his outing Sunday. Piniella said Wood was "significantly better" on Tuesday, and his program for each day will be determined by how he feels that day.
"A lot of the soreness and pain is gone," Piniella said. "We're going to continue to evaluate him. Over the next few days, whatever he can do, we'll allow him to do. It's good news."
Home run trot: Aramis Ramirez is ready. The Cubs third baseman was batting .375, and belted his sixth homer on Tuesday against the Royals, a two-run shot in the second inning to go along with a RBI double in the first.
Earlier this spring, Piniella said he'd planned on talking to Ramirez about assuming more of a leadership role on the team.
"I'm just a kid from the Dominican, I don't know if I have that kind of style in me," Ramirez said. "I just do my job, and try to help anybody I can."
What's nice for Ramirez is that he's had nothing to worry about this spring except hitting. He signed a five-year, $75 million deal in November with the Cubs, and can relax.
"I think that's the way everybody has to approach it, just go out and have fun," he said of Spring Training. "That's what it's all about. When you put pressure on yourself, you're not going to play the way you're supposed to play."
Don't walk: Here's a nice stat for Rich Hill to carry over into the regular season: He didn't walk a single batter all spring in 15 2/3 innings.
"Let's take that into the season," Hill said after his outing Tuesday against the Royals. "I felt strong out there, and going into the fifth inning, I don't know what the pitch count was, but I felt I could go more."
The numbers weren't great. Hill gave up six runs, four earned, on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings. In his defense, he has had a weird spring, and was limited to one inning in a game in his last outing because of rain.
"I was throwing some pitches in certain counts, and working on things," Hill said about Tuesday's game, "and trying to throw sliders and trying to get away from the curveball, and trying to work more a little bit in on the slider in to righties and away from lefties."
The lefty, who will start the Cubs' fourth game of the season in Milwaukee on April 6, will make one more start at the Minor League camp on Sunday before joining the team in Cincinnati for Opening Day festivities.
Welcome back: Ronny Cedeno took a conversation with Piniella to heart, and made the 25-man roster because of it. On Tuesday, he justified it, hitting a three-run homer in the 10th inning to give the Cubs a 13-10 win over the Royals.
"He said to concentrate more and when I get two strikes, be more relaxed," Cedeno said. "The only thing is, I'm taking one strike every at-bat. Now I feel I'm not swinging at bad pitches."
When Cedeno got behind in the count, he wasn't patient. He's trying to develop that. Cedeno was the starting shortstop last season for the Cubs. That's not the case this year.
"I know I'll be a backup," he said. "But when [Piniella] gives me a chance, I have to do my job. I'm so happy to make the team. He's giving me an opportunity. I have to show him I can play. If he needs me for any situation, like pinch-runner, pinch-hitter, I'll be there."
Last season, Cedeno batted .245 in 151 games, including .229 in the second half.
"I learned some things," Cedeno said about the 2006 season. "I'll make more adjustments. Who knows what will happen? I have to be patient for any situation and I'll be OK. I'll work more, take ground balls at second base, shortstop. I never want to be traded. I want to be with the Chicago Cubs the rest of my life, and play every day. Maybe next year, this year, who knows?"
Extra bases: Ryan Dempster blew his first save situation this spring, giving up two runs on three hits in the ninth Tuesday. "He threw the ball OK -- I've seen him throw it better," Piniella said. "If we get in a similar situation in Cincinnati on Monday, he'll be out there with the ball in the ninth inning." ... Tony Dungy, coach of the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, was a guest of general manager Jim Hendry on Tuesday. ... The Reds rotation for the Cubs' season opening series will be Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo and either Kyle Lohse or Eric Milton. ... Center fielder Alfonso Soriano got the day off Tuesday. "Every time we ask him, he says, 'I want to play,'" Piniella said. "Today we didn't ask. We just gave him a day off. He'll play every day, and if I ask him Nov. 15, he'll say, 'Yeah, I'm ready to go today.' All your star players want to play every day. It's a great thing for this baseball team, but you want to keep these guys nice and fresh for a pennant race in August and September." ... Wade Miller will face the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Cactus League finale on Thursday. Game time is moved up one hour to 2:05 p.m. CT. ... Pitcher Bobby Brownlie, the Cubs' first-round pick in 2002, was released by the team Tuesday. Brownlie was a combined 23-34 with a 4.30 ERA in his Minor League career, including a 3-11 record at Double-A West Tenn last year. ... The Cubs Mailbag will return April 9. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On deck: The Cubs have two games remaining at HoHoKam Park, and will play host to the Colorado Rockies Wednesday. Prior, who is 0-2 with a 9.82 ERA in three games, will make his third and final Cactus League start. What's next for Prior? Tough to say. Miller has been designated as the Cubs' fifth starter.
"You've got to be fair to Miller," Piniella said. "I said when I came here to Spring Training that there was no timetable with both Wood or Prior, that we were going to do what's best for them. What's best for them is giving them more time. Is there sense in rushing and then take a step backwards? Or keep coming and when you're ready, you'll know it, the organization will know it, and you can help this team the rest of the year. I really don't know how to handle this situation. I'm hoping I'm doing the right thing."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.