03/30/08 6:02 PM ET
Murton, Marshall not part of set roster
Pair optioned to Triple-A Iowa; Pignatiello earns spot in 'pen
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
The final roster moves were made Sunday before the Cubs took the field for a workout. Murton and Marshall were optioned to the Minor League team, and Pignatiello clinched the bullpen spot as the lone lefty. Scott Eyre was officially placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 23, because of inflammation in his left elbow.
"It's frustrating -- of course it is," Murton said. "Who could sit here and say they're not upset by it? I dealt with it a little last year [when he was sent down]. You just have to keep going and working. When you're home in the winter, you work to get better, and I don't think that changes now that you're in Triple-A."
Murton, whom the Cubs acquired July 2004 in the Nomar Garciaparra trade, batted .348 in 26 games this spring. He spent all of 2006 with the Cubs, hitting .297, and broke camp with the 2007 big league team. But Murton was optioned to Iowa last June, and responded by hitting .331 in 39 games. He finished the year with a .281 average for the Cubs.
"Without an injury in Vegas, we knew this was coming," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "It was just a numbers situation. We needed somebody who could play center, and that's what we got with Reed [Johnson]."
The Cubs signed Johnson in the final week of Spring Training after the outfielder was released by the Toronto Blue Jays. If the Cubs were carrying 11 pitchers, not 12, they would have room on the bench for Murton.
Hendry has tried to trade Murton in hopes of giving the right-handed-hitting outfielder a chance to play in the Major Leagues.
"They've been upfront with me," Murton said. "We've been in communication. I know they're obviously working to do something to a) benefit the Chicago Cubs, and b) somehow allow me to get in a position where I could play. If there is anything to be said for it, they did to this point what they could to try to get something done, and it hasn't happened yet."
Murton said he will report to Iowa in time for Tuesday's exhibition game. He knows he can play in the big leagues.
"There's positives in knowing I'm capable of being here," he said. "The frustrating thing is that I'm not going to be here at this moment. I'm 26. It's not like I'm 35. I know there's more time ahead for me.
"I believe in my abilities," he said. "It's not a matter of 'if' it's going to happen, but 'when' it's going to happen."
As for the pitching, the Cubs decided not to force Marshall into a relief role but send him to Iowa to start. They will use Pignatiello out of the 'pen until Eyre is ready.
Pignatiello grew up rooting for the Cubs, and it was a dream come true to be drafted by the team in the 20th round of the 2000 Draft. This spring, he gave up one run on five hits and no walks over 10 1/3 innings, and that one run was because of a ball lost in the sun.
"I think I did all I could do," the lefty said. "I went out there and had a really good spring. I'm here now, and hopefully I can build off that."
Marshall appeared in seven games this spring, making two starts, and gave up six earned runs on 17 hits and nine walks over 14 2/3 innings.
"In fairness to him, he's been a starter his whole career and asking him to acclimate to the bullpen in a short period of time was tough," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "At the same time, we'll get him pitching and get some innings under his belt, and he can help us.
"Pignatiello earned the job. He was like a long-shot candidate and kept working his way through the ranks, and as the numbers dwindled he stayed around and did the job. He earned it. We didn't give him anything."
Both Murton and Marshall worked out at Wrigley Field on Sunday with the rest of the big league team in the final tuneup before the regular season opener Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers. But the two won't be part of Monday's festivities. They're headed to Iowa.
"It wasn't easy sending either one of them out," Piniella said. "You don't enjoy this part of the business. What can you do? You can only take 25."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.