04/11/10 6:39 PM ET
Changes could be afoot after Sunday's loss
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"When you're not scoring runs, you better put your best defense on the field -- that I can tell you," Piniella said after Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. "You can't afford to give up runs when you're not scoring."
An error by Alfonso Soriano in the Reds' seventh led to a run. Soriano apparently tracked Jonny Gomes' fly ball, but then took his eyes away. The ball dropped, and he was charged with an error.
The Reds baserunners seemed confused. Did Soriano catch it? Was it foul? Whatever, the bases were loaded and starter Tom Gorzelanny was pulled. Pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo gently smacked the ball past Sean Marshall for an infield hit, and Scott Rolen scored from third to tie the game.
Piniella couldn't tell what happened because Soriano disappeared from view. How close was Soriano to the wall?
"I took a couple steps then hit the grass, and as soon as I hit the grass, I thought I had two more steps," Soriano said. "I took little steps, because I didn't want to hit the wall. You know, full speed into the wall can be very dangerous."
Rookie Tyler Colvin was inserted into left after the eighth inning. He may need to start. What else can Piniella do?
"We'll see what happens," Piniella said. "I'm going to go home, think about it. It's nice to be going home tomorrow. I'm looking forward to the home opener, and hopefully, we'll start swinging the bats and put some runs on the board and win with more frequency."
The other trouble spot has been rookie Esmailin Caridad, who walked in the tiebreaking run in the eighth. He also served up a game-winning grand slam on Friday.
"The one thing that's disappointing to me is, we go all spring with very few walks," Piniella said, "and I compliment our pitchers for doing that. The season starts and here come the walks.
"That's why sometimes you look at Spring Training with a grain of salt. You can look at his stuff, look at demeanor, look at a lot of things, but there's no substitute when the season starts and it's for real."
There may be changes coming there, too.
Theriot shakes off injury to play in finale
CINCINNATI -- Shortstop Ryan Theriot was in the Cubs' lineup on Sunday despite having a tight right calf, which he felt while running the bases on Saturday.
Theriot passed all the tests during batting practice Sunday. If he was unavailable, Mike Fontenot would've switched from second to short, and Jeff Baker, who hit the game-winning homer on Saturday, would've started at second.
Theriot's leg tightened in the fourth, when he advanced from first to second on a wild pitch. The shortstop had turned toward third and collided with Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera. Theriot and manager Lou Piniella argued that Cabrera was in the way, but second-base umpire CB Bucknor didn't budge.
"It was termed an obstruction play," Piniella said. "The umpire explained to me that if Theriot had attempted further to go to third and had been thrown out, he would've granted him third base. But since he only took a step or two and went back to second, it was obstruction, as opposed to interference and he stays at second base."
During the first week, the Cubs' infielders have made some dazzling defensive plays. Theriot had a mini-highlight reel on Friday, and Fontenot and Derrek Lee each flashed good gloves on Saturday. Lee downplayed his leaping catch of Jay Bruce's liner, which ended the eighth on Saturday and stranded a runner. The Cubs won, 4-3.
"It's not a hard play," Lee said.
"I can see why Dean Smith wanted to recruit him over at North Carolina," Piniella said of Lee, who turned down a basketball scholarship to play baseball.
Cubs give Leake kudos
CINCINNATI -- The Cubs were impressed by Reds rookie Mike Leake, who made his Major League debut on Sunday without having to endure a single Minor League bus ride.
"He knew what he was doing," Chicago's Derrek Lee said. "He had a lot of pitches -- a lot of different pitches. He competed. He didn't seem intimidated out there. He kept us off balance."
Leake is the 21st player since the First-Year Player Draft began in 1965 to play in the big leagues without appearing in a Minor League game. He struck out five and walked seven over 6 2/3 innings, while also notching two singles.
Since the Draft began, the Cubs have had one player make his pro debut in the big leagues, pitcher Burt Hooton, who accomplished the feat on June 17, 1971, vs. St. Louis at the age of 21. He started and went 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs in a 7-6 Cubs win.
Leake may have been a little nervous in the first. He walked Ryan Theriot, gave up a double to Kosuke Fukudome and then walked Lee to load the bases.
"We had him on the ropes," Lee said. "Bases loaded, no outs -- most of the time, we're going to score. Give him credit, he didn't fold."
Instead, Leake got Aramis Ramirez to pop up, struck out Marlon Byrd and got Alfonso Soriano to fly out.
"The first inning, we have the bases loaded and the meat part of our lineup coming up and the kid wiggled out of it," skipper Lou Piniella said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.