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02/25/08 5:00 PM ET

Notes: Opportunity knocks at second

De Rosa's absence means more time available for infielders

MESA, Ariz. -- Mark DeRosa was not expected to rejoin the Cubs until after the Cactus League games begin on Thursday, which means some other middle infielders will get playing time at second base.

Mike Fontenot, Alex Cintron, Ronny Cedeno or Eric Patterson could start Thursday when the Cubs begin play against the San Francisco Giants. DeRosa, sidelined with an irregular heartbeat, returned to Chicago on Monday to be examined by a cardiologist.

"The important thing with Mark is we get him well so when he's back he can get on a schedule and not miss any more time," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "He's falling behind, but believe me, I'm not concerned about him falling behind, I'm concerned about him getting well."

DeRosa did stop by the Cubs' Fitch Park facility on Monday and took part in photo day.

"I know one thing, let's just get him well and forget baseball for a while," Piniella said. "He's got plenty of time to make up ground. We've got a long time to go in Spring Training."

Besides the four infielders mentioned who could play second, the Cubs also will get a chance to look at some of the six-year Minor League free agents in camp, such as Andres Blanco, Luis Figueroa and Bobby Scales.

Yakyu: Kosuke Fukudome has been working with his personal trainer to strengthen his right elbow, which needed surgery last August to remove bone fragments.

"My elbow is just fine, and I've been working with my personal trainer to maintain not just my elbow but my whole body," Fukudome said through his interpreter, Ryuji Araki. "I'm taking care of the little things, like my throwing mechanics and stuff like that to alleviate any stress in my elbow. I'm totally fine."

He looked good in batting practice on Monday, hitting a few balls out during the session.

"Fukudome swung the bat well today," Piniella said of the Japanese outfielder. "He swung with some power. He's been working on his left-field swing most of the spring, and staying inside the ball. Today he juiced a few over on the back field."

What about the home runs?

"The wind was blowing out today," Fukudome said.

Spring Training
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Arms race: The Cubs have two openings in the bullpen and are looking for another left-hander -- to complement Scott Eyre -- plus a right-hander.

"What I was pleased about today was Neal Cotts threw the ball really well," Piniella said. "We're looking for another left-hander in the bullpen to help Scotty out, and there's nothing better than to see a young man like Cotts come in here and take a job. Let's hope he can do that. He threw the ball very well today. His breaking ball is much improved over last spring, he's throwing more strikes and he really looks comfortable on the mound."

Cotts opened the season with the Cubs last year and posted a 4.86 ERA in 16 games before he was sent down to Triple-A Iowa. He had a 4.83 ERA in 24 games there, including six starts.

The other openings are in the rotation. Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, and Rich Hill are set. The competition for the other spots begins Thursday. The contenders? Jon Lieber, Ryan Dempster, Jason Marquis and Sean Marshall. Dempster will get things started on Thursday in the Cactus League opener.

"We've got the people here in camp," Piniella said. "It's not like we have to look for anyone else."

What happens to the starter who doesn't get a spot?

"I don't think any of these guys want to go to the bullpen who don't start," Piniella said. "Let's have them compete, and we can start exploring that a little later on this spring. I would think the guys we have here all want to start."

What's tough is that youngsters such as Sean Gallagher may be out of luck in making the big league club. There are a lot of veterans ahead of him.

"We'll pitch them here in Spring Training, but this is not a year for that," Piniella said. "I hate to say that, but we have veteran pitchers here to consider and they'll get every chance, first and foremost. We like Gallagher. I like [Jeff] Samardzija. But truthfully, I'd be lying if I said something like that could happen [that they'd make the big league team]. We have seven veteran starters. They're all healthy, they're all going to compete. Unless we have a streak of bad luck and we have some injuries, this is not the spring for them."

However, one of the young pitchers in camp could find a job in the bullpen. Piniella likes hard-throwing right-handers Jose Ceda and Billy Petrick.

"Petrick's gotten bigger -- I don't know if that's possible," Piniella said of the 6-foot-6, 240-pound pitcher. "He's a big, strong young man.

"I ask Ceda every day if he's going to have a turkey sandwich, and he says, 'I like that ham and cheese,'" Piniella said. "Let him keep working. He's got a good arm, too, a really good arm."

Aches and pains: Pitcher Jose Ascanio was still wearing sunglasses to cover his left eye, which was injured when he was punched in a robbery attempt outside a convenience store Saturday night in Scottsdale. Ascanio was expected to resume throwing on Tuesday.

Daryle Ward also didn't work out Monday.

"He spent the day in the whirlpool," Piniella said. "He had some soreness in his back. Hopefully, we'll get him out there tomorrow."

Home run derby: Jake Fox won a home run derby competition at HoHoKam Park on Sunday, hitting four out in 15 swings. Micah Hoffpauir and Dylan Johnston also took part.

There were several former big league players attending the event.

"It was a lot of fun meeting these guys," said Fox, who got to chat with Geoff Zaun and Fergie Jenkins. "It was fun to be part of the show and see the old timers."

Extra bases: The starters for the first five Cactus League games will be Dempster, Zambrano, Marquis, Lilly and Lieber. Hill will work one of those first two games. Seven pitchers could throw in each of the first three games. ... The three closer candidates -- Kerry Wood, Bob Howry, and Carlos Marmol -- won't be pitching late in games in the beginning. "We'll probably use our late people early in the games until the lineups start getting deeper, and let them face Major League hitters," Piniella said. "Plus, they don't have to sit around for nine innings to get an inning's worth of work." ... By the way, "yakyu" means baseball in Japanese. ... The Cubs will move up Center Street to HoHoKam Park after Tuesday's practice.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.