Home Sweet Home

The Cubs open the home portion of their season with a Friday game against St. Louis at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs are hoping to fare better at the park than they did in 2005, when they were 38-43 at the not-so-friendly confines.

"We were one of the better teams on the road (a 41-40 mark)," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "If you are .500 or better on the road, that's usually the toughest part of the equation. But we didn't play very well at home, and we need to establish a home advantage and superiority this year."

Added catcher Michael Barrett: "The fans really booed (ex-Cubs) Corey Patterson and LaTroy Hawkins, and that brought everybody down. We didn't play well. You can't pinpoint it on one thing, like Wrigley Field. But it was a tough place to play last year."

NOTES, QUOTES

--2B Neifi Perez will be the starting second baseman and will bat second when the Cubs host St. Louis on Friday. Cubs manager Dusty Baker said he preferred Perez's defense over Todd Walker's with groundball pitcher Greg Maddux on the hill for the Cubs. And Jerry Hairston Jr. was hitting just 2-for-19 lifetime against St. Louis starting pitcher Jeff Suppan.

--RHP Jerome Williams will not be used as the team's No. 5 starter until April 15 because the Cubs have so many off days early in the season. Williams didn't endear himself to manager Dusty Baker on Wednesday during a relief stint. Williams gave up three runs and walked three in one inning in an 8-6 loss to Cincinnati. "The long relief couldn't hold them," Baker said. "Walks got Jerome in trouble. We were hoping he could go longer in the ballgame. You want your long reliever to throw up some zeros and see if we have the ability to come back."

--RHP Greg Maddux, who starts Friday's home opener against St. Louis, is 23-18 lifetime against the Cardinals with a 2.70 ERA in 51 starts.

--3B Aramis Ramirez, who hit .483 in Cactus League play, is traditionally not a hot starter during the regular season, as he hits .259 before May. Through two games, Ramirez is hitting .250 with one home run.

--1B Derrek Lee hit his first homer of the year Wednesday against Cincinnati, and it represented his 23rd home run against the Reds. It's the most he's hit against any opponent. Last year, he hit nine homers against the Reds in 63 at-bats.

--RHP David Aardsma couldn't crack the 25-man roster out of spring training, but toward the end of camp he was throwing in the high 90 mph range and was impressing the Cubs brass. He will get some closing duties for Triple-A Iowa and could be a call-up during the season. The 24-year-old came to the Cubs in a trade with the Giants last year that also brought RHP Jerome Williams for RHP LaTroy Hawkins.


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