Notes: Marquis not taking a break
Cubs right-hander aiming to avoid second-half letdown
WASHINGTON -- The All-Star break isn't the end of anything for Cubs pitcher Jason Marquis.
"You know you've got 15-plus starts left," said Marquis, who will make his final start of the first half on Friday, when the Cubs open a series against Pittsburgh at PNC Park. "You still have to keep the season going, and over the break, do things that got you where you are. You don't try to really take a break until the offseason."
Which means he'll run, do his weight lifting exercises, play catch, and stay in shape. It's still time off away from the ballpark, which is nice.
"It's a break from the routine of going to the stadium," Marquis said. "You can play catch, do your bullpen, and be done in an hour and be with your family the rest of the day. Here, you can do that but you have to stay and watch the game. It's a different mentality."
Last year, Marquis was 11-6 with a 5.55 ERA before the All-Star break, and he enters Friday's game with a 6-4 record and 3.31 ERA. He finished the second half of 2006 at 3-10. The right-hander feels he's made a lot of progress from one year ago.
"I feel like there are games that could've gotten away from me and didn't that might have last year," he said. "Overall, I feel I'm better with my delivery and mechanics. I feel I have a better idea of when something goes wrong I can fix it quicker. I feel positive about it, and hopefully I can keep that going in the second half."
Ironman: Cubs manager Lou Piniella tried to give Alfonso Soriano a day off Thursday. The All-Star outfielder didn't want it.
Soriano started in left field in the Cubs' series finale against the Washington Nationals, and was expected to play all three games in Pittsburgh leading up to the All-Star break.
"I'm here to play 162 games," said Soriano, who played a season-high 159 games last year. "I missed one week already because of my hamstring. I'll take days off when I go on vacation."
That won't be until after the season ends.
"He doesn't want [a day off]," Piniella said. "He says his time will come during the All-Star break."
Soriano and Derrek Lee will be the Cubs' lone representatives at the All-Star Game. Carlos Zambrano finished second in the fan balloting for the Monster.com 2007 All-Star Final Vote.
Roster moves: Sean Gallagher was back with the Cubs on Thursday, trading places in the bullpen with Billy Petrick. Gallagher began the season at Double-A Tennessee before he was called up June 9. When sent down, he made two starts with Triple-A Iowa, and was 1-1 with a 4.00 ERA.
The move keeps the Cubs at 11 pitchers, and they hope to survive the final three games of the first half that way. Gallagher can be used in long relief if needed.
"We've got to have 12 pitchers here," Piniella said. "By a week from [Friday], we have to be at 12 pitchers. We've got to be set up with a long guy, short people, and our five starters."
The 12th pitcher will be Ryan Dempster, who will be eligible to be activated from the disabled list on Sunday, but won't be added until after the All-Star break. The days off this week give the right-hander free days to heal from a strained oblique.
When the Cubs do activate Dempster, a position player will be moved. That will give Piniella something to think about when he goes home to Florida for the All-Star break.
Petrick has totaled 5 2/3 innings over four games so far, and will be back, Piniella said.
"This kid came up here and opened up some eyes real quick," Piniella said of the right-hander, who was assigned to Triple-A Iowa and will pitch in relief there. "I wouldn't be surprised if you see him here in the second half at some point."
The only thing Petrick needs to show the Cubs is that he can pitch on consecutive days. He has yet to go back to back.
Backstops: Entering Thursday's game, Koyie Hill had caught 14 games and Rob Bowen seven. Hill was batting .160, while Bowen was 1-for-23 since joining the Cubs on June 20.
Who will get the most starts in the second half?
"I like the way they both handle the pitching staff," Piniella said. "It'll probably depend on who's swinging the bat a little better. That'll be the determining factor."
Henry Blanco is making progress from a herniated disk in his neck, and taking batting practice. He could be a factor in the second half, too.
"I think he's on track for that," Piniella said.
Stopper: Carlos Marmol has a 1.07 ERA in 21 games, and can go into the All-Star break feeling good about the progress he's made. A year ago, the right-hander was 5-7 with a 6.08 ERA in 19 games total.
"I feel comfortable," Marmol said, "and when you feel comfortable, you believe in yourself.
"I learned a lot from last year," he said. "I know what I'm doing now."
What's nice is that Marmol, in only his second season with the Cubs, is passing on info to kids like Petrick.
"The young guys, we try to take care of each other," Marmol said. "I just taught him what people have told me. Be ready, take your time when you need it, stuff like that."
Extra bases: Zambrano will start July 13 vs. Houston when the Cubs begin the second half. He'll be followed in the rotation by Ted Lilly, Marquis, Rich Hill and Sean Marshall. ... Piniella isn't worried about Lee's dropoff in home runs. "When the season started, you would expect more," Piniella said. "He's been hitting for high average all year, and has a really nice on-base percentage. With Derrek, when he starts hitting home runs, they'll come in bunches." Lee and Mark DeRosa were given Thursday off. ... The Cubs will work out July 12 at Wrigley Field before beginning the second half. Lee and Soriano are exempt from the session. ... The Cubs have changed the starting times for two games in July to accommodate ESPN. The July 16 game vs. San Francisco and the July 30 game vs. Philadelphia both will begin at 6:05 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field.
Minor matters: Randy Wells gave up three runs on four hits over 3 2/3 innings in Iowa's 7-3 loss to New Orleans on Wednesday, their eighth straight loss. Ronny Cedeno had three hits, and both he and Buck Coats have 12-game hitting streaks. ... Justin Berg gave up five runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings in Tennessee's 6-3 loss to Huntsville. ... Daytona's game against St. Lucie on Wednesday was postponed because of rain. ... Jose Pina gave up three runs, two earned, on five hits over 5 1/3 innings in Peoria's 3-1 loss to Kane County. ... Seventh-round pick Ty Wright went 2-for-4 with three RBIs in Boise's 9-7 win over Everett. ... Carlos Perez went 5-for-5 in the Mesa Cubs' 12-8 win over the Athletics.
Welcome aboard: The Cubs have signed 25 of their picks from the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, including second-pick Josh Donaldson from Auburn University. Donaldson, 21, selected 48th overall, led the Tigers with a .349 batting average and 54 RBIs.
The list also includes fifth-round pick Brandon Guyer, sixth-round pick Casey Lambert, seventh-round pick Ty Wright, eighth-round pick Marquez Smith and 10th-round selection Leon Johnson.
Others to have signed include Christopher Siegfried (11th round), Jonathan Wyatt (13th), Marc Sawyer (15th), Zachary Ashwood (16th), Arik Hempy (17th), Jose Made (20th), Dustin Sasser (21st), Craig Muschko (22nd), Stephen Vento (23rd), Scott Meyer (24th), Michael Bunton (26th), Bill Moss (28th), Luke Sommer (30th), Brian Leclerc (31st), Luis Bautista (32nd), Billy Mottran (36th), Yuri Higgins (38th), Roberto Sabates (39th), and Corey Bachman (40th).
On deck: Marquis will make his final start before the All-Star break on Friday when the Cubs open a three-game series in Pittsburgh. Marquis is 2-0 with an 0.53 ERA against the Pirates so far this season, giving up one earned run on seven hits over 17 innings. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast on Comcast Sports Net Plus.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.