Notes: Piniella OK with silent treatment
Cubs, Cards skippers engage in gamesmanship
ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa may not be talking to some St. Louis newspaper reporters this weekend because of what he called "cheap shots" directed at the Cubs, but La Russa isn't talking to Lou Piniella either.
It's not that La Russa is mad at the Cubs manager. He's superstitious.
"I remember when I managed against Tony, if you talk before the ballgame and he beat me, he'd look for me the next day," Piniella said Saturday. "If he had to go find me in the commissary, he'd come get me. I told him, I talked to him when we were in Chicago, and I said, 'If you beat me, you're not going to talk to me any more.' I haven't talked to him.
"We're playing a little bit of head games, nothing more, nothing less," Piniella said.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch did a parody on Friday of the famous poem, "Tinker to Evers to Chance," saying the Cubs had no chance of winning a World Series.
"I didn't like the article and thought it was silly," Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee said Saturday. "But after awhile, you forget about it. It wasn't classy."
La Russa and Piniella grew up together in Tampa, Fla., and lived about a mile apart. They played on the same American Legion teams. Perhaps La Russa's actions toward the reporters are his way of showing he respects the Cubs.
"That's the way I interpret it, yes," Piniella said. "If a team came into Chicago, there would be no need to give that team extra impetus to beat you. Whether it gives it to you or not, I don't know. I think this sort of thing, probably 15, 20 years ago, before the age of free agency and all this moving around, would probably have more impact. I can understand Tony's viewpoint."
First kiss: When Angel Guzman makes his first start of the season Tuesday against Pittsburgh, he'll be looking for his first win. The right-hander appeared in 15 big league games last season, including 10 starts, and was 0-6.
"I don't want to make a big deal out of it," Guzman said. "I just want to go out there and help the team. I just want to go out there and put zeroes on the scoreboard."
He made two starts for Triple-A Iowa to prepare for Tuesday's game. On April 21 against Nashville, he gave up five runs on six hits and two walks over three innings and took the loss. On April 26 against Memphis, he was charged with two runs on four hits over 4 1/3 innings and struck out five.
"My first start, I didn't have a good feeling for the ball," Guzman said. "I woke up at 4 in the morning to catch a flight, and I'm not using that as an excuse, but you have to have a lot of rest to have success on the field. The second one, I felt pretty good and had good command of every pitch and had good results."
Congratulations: Jason Marquis was booed on Friday when he started for the Cubs against the Cardinals. On Saturday, he was cheered.
Marquis received his 2006 World Series ring in a pregame ceremony. All of the Cardinals players came onto the field to applaud the pitcher, who received the jewelry from St. Louis general manager Walt Jocketty.
"It was nice to have your teammates out there greeting you -- your ex-teammates," said Marquis, who now is on the other side of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry. "It's definitely a sign of respect. It was a nice day."
Don't expect Marquis to be wearing the ring anywhere.
"It'll be a keepsake for my kids to have," Marquis said. "I'm not a show-off type guy. If people want to see it, I'm more than welcome to show them. I'm not one to go around and wear it every day, maybe special occasions."
The Cardinals are definitely celebrating their World Championship -- there are banners and signs everywhere at Busch Stadium. Marquis was part of it.
"It's something I'll cherish the rest of my life," he said. "It was definitely a great feeling to know you were part of something."
Handyman: Bob Howry was in a little bit of a hurry last Thursday. He was already dressed for the Cubs' flight to St. Louis but wanted to move a gas grill on his balcony out of the rain. He lifted it a little awkwardly, trying to avoid getting himself dirty, and hurt his back under his left shoulder.
"It was a freak thing," Howry said. "I didn't want to move it that far."
The Cubs reliever was not available on Friday, but was able to play catch Saturday.
"It's not totally gone but it's not painful," Howry said. "They didn't want to take a chance [Friday night] and have me get hurt and need five to eight days."
Saving grace: Friday's 1 2/3 inning outing by Ryan Dempster marked his fifth save of more than one inning. Dempster also picked up saves that were more than one inning on Sept. 15, 2004, against Pittsburgh when he pitched two innings; June 20, 2005, against Milwaukee (1 2/3 innings); Sept. 2, 2005, against Pittsburgh (1 1/3 innings); and May 29, 2006, against Cincinnati (1 1/3 innings).
Change is good: After 22 games, Piniella has a short wish list of aspects of the game he'd like to see improvement. For example, the hitters need to be more patient at the plate and take more walks.
"What I'd like to see a few of our hitters doing is working the pitcher to get base on balls," he said. "That's one area we really need to work on. I'm not saying go up there to look for a walk but if it's there, take it."
Perfect example was the eighth inning Friday against young Cardinals pitcher Kelvin Jimenez.
Another item on his list is having the left-handers in the bullpen pick up some of the workload. The lefties in the Cubs bullpen have given up 14 earned runs over 22 1/3 innings for a 5.64 ERA. Right-handers Dempster, Howry and Michael Wuertz have given up nine earned runs over 37 2/3 innings for a 2.15 ERA.
"We need our left-handed bullpen to start getting the job done," Piniella said. "We've been primarily functioning from the right side."
One right-hander who has fared well is Wuertz, who has a 0.71 ERA in 11 games.
"Michael is a professional," Piniella said. "He doesn't back away from a situation, he's calm and cool under pressure. He makes the hitter beat him, which I really like."
Extra bases: Catcher Michael Barrett gave the pregame lineup for Saturday's game on FOX TV, including this: "Filling in for the legendary Ron Santo, Aramis Ramirez. Get well soon, Ron." Santo, the former Cubs third baseman, is resting at home after an irregular heart beat sidelined him from his duties as WGN Radio analyst. Santo was expected to rejoin the team on Friday at home. ... Cliff Floyd was calling former Mets teammates to see if they knew who Kirk Radomski is. He's the former Mets clubhouse attendant accused of providing steroids to players. "I have no clue who he is," Floyd said. Radomski worked the Mets clubhouse before Floyd arrived. ... Ryan Theriot made his third straight start at shortstop on Saturday, but he was expected to be on the bench Sunday in place of Cesar Izturis. Piniella wasn't worried about Theriot's error in Friday's game. "He's fine," Piniella said. "You people will see why I play Theriot at shortstop."
Minor matters: J.R. Mathes gave up six runs, five earned, on nine hits over five innings in Iowa's 6-5 loss to Memphis. Eric Patterson had two hits, including a three-run homer in the sixth. Randy Wells gave up one hit over three innings in relief. ... Mark Holliman gave up two runs, one earned, on six hits over six innings and struck out six in Tennessee's 4-2 win over Carolina. Holliman is 3-0 in four starts with a 0.33 ERA. ... Joel Santo gave up one run on seven hits over six innings and struck out five in Daytona's 4-3 win over Jupiter. ... Rafael Dolis threw six shutout innings in Peoria's 1-0 win over West Michigan. Dolis gave up four hits and struck out two.
On deck: Rich Hill will close the weekend series Sunday night at 7:05 p.m. CT, facing Kip Wells. Hill lost his last start to Milwaukee, giving up four runs on six hits over 6 2/3 innings. Sunday's game will be televised on ESPN.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.