Bullpen Concern

The Cubs bullpen continues to sparkle, allowing three earned runs in 18 2/3 innings and winning three of the team's first four games.

But the 'pen is in danger of being overtaxed because two starting pitchers are not fully stretched out.

Sean Marshall was able to go just 4 1/3 innings in Sunday's 8-4 victory over St. Louis, and No. 5 starter Jerome Williams, who will make his first start of the season Saturday against Pittsburgh, has thrown just three innings in long relief in the first five games of the season.

That makes it important that the Cubs' starters go six or more innings in the next four games.

Left-hander Glendon Rusch needs to set the tone Tuesday when the Cubs open a three-game series against Cincinnati. He threw 85 pitches but lasted just four innings in an 8-6 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park on April 5.


--1B Derrek Lee and the Cubs reportedly have reached agreement on a five-year, $65 million contract to run through 2010. He had been slated to make $8.75 million this year. Lee was a Triple Crown contender last season when he won the NL batting title (.335) while finishing second in homers (46) and seventh in RBIs (107). He also led the league in hits (199), doubles (50), slugging percentage (.662) and total bases (393). He's off to another good start this year, hitting .375 with three homers and six RBIs through five games.

--RHP Mark Prior (shoulder injury), who has been at extended spring training, will throw a bullpen session at Wrigley Field on Tuesday. The Cubs will evaluate him after the session, and the next step forward would be to let him face hitters.

--RHP Kerry Wood (shoulder surgery, knee surgery) continues to face hitters in batting practice, and his next step could be a simulated game later this week. The Cubs are not saying when he will be ready for a rehab assignment.

--RHP Jerome Williams, who will make his first start on Saturday at Pittsburgh, pitched two scoreless innings against St. Louis on Sunday night and got back into manager Dusty Baker's good graces. Williams entered the game with a 4-3 lead and held the Cardinals scoreless, and the Cubs rallied and won 8-4. In Williams' first appearance against Cincinnati, he walked three and gave up three runs in one inning in an 8-6 loss.

--RHP Scott Williamson pitched a scoreless eighth on Sunday night and watched as the Cubs staged a five-run rally in the bottom of the inning for an 8-4 victory. Williamson earned his first victory since July 28, 2003, when he was with Cincinnati.

BY THE NUMBERS: 25 -- Players who showed up at Great American Ball Park on the off day April 4 for a voluntary workout.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I said, 'Hey, how are you doing, my name is Todd Walker.' And he said, 'Hey, Tom, how are you?' I guess I didn't make too good of an impression." -- Cubs second baseman Todd Walker on meeting President Bush before the April 3 season opener in Cincinnati.

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