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02/20/11 6:57 PM EST

Despite rain, Cubs get in first day of live BP

Quade close to announcing rotation for Cactus League slate

MESA, Ariz. -- Reed Johnson realized too late he should've been wearing his elbow pad during live batting practice Sunday.

Cubs closer Carlos Marmol clipped Johnson with a pitch on the left elbow. Johnson's elbow guard was in his locker after the session.

"It's a couple hours too late," Johnson said. "I have to callous that elbow for the season. Marmol was doing me a favor."

The pitchers weren't trying to make any friends on Sunday, the first day of live batting practice. A cold rain made it even worse.

"The rain was coming at me from one direction and [Sean] Marshall's curveball was coming at me from another," infielder Bobby Scales said.

Four of the six pitchers slated for Fields 2 and 3 at Fitch Park got their work in despite the rain. The others finished up in the batting cages.

"I was trying to decide if we were dedicated or nuts, and I settled on the first one," Cubs manager Mike Quade said of the workout in conditions more likely to be seen in April in Chicago, not Arizona. "It's so important for [the pitchers] to see hitters a couple times. I don't think the hitters were too interested in swinging anyways."

The first Cactus League game is Feb. 27, and Quade and pitching coach Mark Riggins were finalizing the spring rotation. Expect an annoucement Monday or Tuesday on who will start against the Athletics in one week.

For John Grabow, Sunday was significant because it was the first time the left-hander faced hitters since June 28. That was his last game of 2010 before being sidelined with a torn MCL in his left knee. He will wear a knee brace for the entire season.

"Now, I'm used to it and I don't even know it's there any more," he said. "Can I pitch without it? I'm not going to take that chance."

The side sessions benefit the pitchers more than the hitters. Sunday was Alfonso Soriano's second day in camp and he had to face Ryan Dempster.

"When you're throwing bullpens, there's no one there and you're just throwing to a spot," Grabow said. "When guys are taking swings off you, you can see what you've been working on is actually working. They can give you a little bit of feedback. You can ask some of the hitters how your breaking ball looks, was there much depth from your fastball to your changeup. You work on that a little bit without trying to hit guys."

How much do hitters look forward to live batting practice? They don't. One muttered, "Please don't get Marmol, please don't get Marmol."

That player didn't. Johnson did.

"It's not a good feeling to be out there with the rain and him and the [batting] cages don't add to your safety," Johnson said. "The first day, it lets you know where you're at."

He's got a bump on his elbow.

Well-traveled Coello looks to stick with Cubs

MESA, Ariz. -- Robert Coello had a busy offseason. After spending the season in the Minor Leagues for the Red Sox, he pitched for Licey in the Dominican Republic and was headed home when the Guasave team in Mexico called. He just repacked and went to Mexico for a nine-game stretch. His last appearance was on Christmas Day.

Last week, the pitcher was in Florida in the Red Sox's spring camp when he got a phone call from Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. Coello is now with the Cubs after being traded for Minor League infielder Tony Thomas.

"It was a little bit surprising," Coello said Sunday. "When the phone rang, Jim Hendry called me and told me about the trade, and I was really happy to be with the Chicago Cubs."

Last year, he totaled 145 innings in 49 games for four teams, starting in April with Double-A Portland, where he was 4-1 with one save with a 3.32 ERA in 14 games. At Triple-A Pawtucket, he was 3-5 with a 4.22 ERA in 18 games, including nine starts. Then he went to the Dominican, and in his first start Oct. 22, he gave up one hit and two walks over five innings and fanned four.

When Coello pitched for Licey, his catcher was Welington Castillo of the Cubs.

"He said, 'When I got the news I was coming here, I thought about you,'" said Castillo, who likes the right-hander's fastball. "He has really good stuff and he's a really good person."

Coello must be good at packing a suitcase. He's traveled quite a bit.

"[The trade] was a little difficult because you already know the organization," he said, "but it is a business so from a business standpoint, you have to be open minded and hope you can be lucky to get into a good organization like this. I've heard a lot of good stuff about the Cubs."

Extra bases

James Russell will get stretched out this spring as the Cubs try to decide if the left-hander can fill a slot in the rotation. If not, the next decision will be whether he's better off starting in the Minor Leagues or in the bullpen with the big league team. That decision won't be made until late March. "You'd like some diversity in your rotation," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "I haven't looked at the history books, but I'm sure there have been great right-handed rotations and teams that have been successful that are either all right-handed or dominated by right-handed starters. If [Russell] can step up and pitch well as a starter, that's good for him and good for us." ... The Cubs are expected to name their Cactus League rotation Monday or Tuesday. ... Quade carries a fungo bat with him nearly everywhere he goes. "It's like my security blanket," he said. "It used to be a tool. Now, you get kicked upstairs and now it just helps me get around." ... Single-game tickets go on sale Feb. 25 at Cubs.com. ... The Milford (Conn.) Muscle AAU team was at Sunday's workout. They're in the Valley for a baseball tournament.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.