02/24/08 2:55 PM ET
Notes: Ascanio sore after incident
Hurler doesn't work out after being attacked
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"He got punched a few times by a guy who was looking for some money," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Sunday.
Ascanio was in street clothes in the Cubs clubhouse and wearing sunglasses on Sunday. He did not work out, but was sent home.
"He didn't get robbed," Piniella said. "The guy asked for money, and the young man said, 'I don't have any money,' and the guy punched him a few times. [Ascanio] went over to the hospital. His eye was closed and he had some swelling on the left side of his face."
Ascanio's status was day to day. The Cubs acquired the reliever from the Atlanta Braves this offseason for Will Ohman and Omar Infante.
"It's amazing -- we haven't had any groin [injuries], we haven't had any hamstrings, we haven't had any shoulders or elbows," Piniella said. "We've had all these other type injuries that are not normal."
Swing time: Piniella made a point of telling Matt Murton how impressed he was by the outfielder's swing.
"Murton's got the best swing I've seen," Piniella said. "It's aggressive, it's short, it's compact and quick to the ball with some power."
Murton said he hasn't changed anything, just returned to using a timing device in which he lifts his front foot.
"When I'm in the box, and the pitcher releases the ball, the longer you wait to lift your foot, the harder it is to get it back down and get your swing started," Murton said. "So I was trying to do it earlier. The earlier you can get it done in rhythm, the more time it gives you to attack the baseball.
"What happened was I wasn't picking my foot up," he said. "The problem with that was sometimes I'd start compensating to create something because I wasn't lifting my foot so it would get me in trouble."
Murton began the 2007 season with the big league team and batted .252. He was sent down to Triple-A Iowa in June, hit .331 for the Minor League team, then came back and hit .310 with the big league team. He was able to have more consistent at-bats at Iowa, which helpd him regain his timing.
"It's nothing I tried to create or anything," Murton said. "I felt the biggest problem for me early was that it was the first time I wasn't in the box consistently from the beginning of the season."
Murton didn't get regular playing time at the start of last season. In 2005, he had been playing for three months before he was called up, and in 2006, he got more at-bats at the beginning of the year.
"Last year, I never felt like I got it going," he said.
"I talk to his interpreter, if not on a daily occurrence, certainly every other day to make sure everything is fine, that he's acclimating himself well to camp, that he's enjoying the things we're doing here and the answer is yes," Piniella said.
"He's working hard," Piniella said. "Usually in Japan, they stay on the field a little longer, and I asked him, 'If you're not getting enough work we can get you some more,' and he said, 'No, no, I'm fine with it.' He's acclimating quite well to the work schedule here."
Fukudome makes the most of his batting practice sessions, too.
"He's very methodical in his approach," Piniella said. "He starts hitting the ball down the left-field line, and then he starts working the ball to the middle of the field and toward the end of batting practice he'll start pulling the ball. He uses the whole field in batting practice which is a nice discipline and nice approach to hitting.
"These [hitters] are all behind," Piniella said. "They don't enjoy facing these pitchers right now. But you can see why this young man has had success. He handles the bat well. I look forward to seeing him in the games."
Extra bases: Sunday's workout was abbreviated. "A short day today -- the guys have been working hard," Piniella said. The pitchers will have one more throw day before games begin. ... Outfielder Tyler Colvin didn't hit on Sunday because his elbow tightened up. He was held out of workouts as a precautionary measure. ... Kerry Wood was pleased to hear that Derrek Lee was surprised by his curveball during a session Saturday. Wood had told catcher Geovany Soto that he didn't want the hitters to know what he was throwing for the final 15 pitches. "It's not hitter's practice," Wood said. ... The Cubs will not play an intrasquad game, but will move to HoHoKam Park after Tuesday's workout. They'll have one practice session there Wednesday before Cactus League play begins. ... Felix Pie has been swinging the bat well in camp, too. "He's gotten shorter, and he's using his front side much better and using the whole field and slapping the ball to the third base, shortstop hole," Piniella said. "He says he likes the food in the big leagues a lot more than he does the food in Triple-A."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.