Cubs Inside Pitch

The Cubs introduced Lou Piniella as their manager on Oct. 17, and it marked the third consecutive time they sought out a proven manager with a good track record.

Things didn't work out well for Don Baylor and Dusty Baker, but Piniella is brimming with confidence.

"We're going to win here, and that's the end of the story," Piniella said.

But guys like Baylor and Baker were pretty confident, too, when they were hired, and they both had losing records in a Cubs uniform.

"Why is it going to be different? I have extreme confidence in my ability No. 1," Piniella said. "And I know you've had some good managers here in the past. Sometimes things don't go the way you expect. Look, when the bosses are behind you like they are here, it makes things a whole lot easier. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dusty. He's a heck of a manager. Sometimes it just doesn't work somewhere.

"It's important to win here, and winning is what I'm all about."

The Cubs have gone 98 years without a World Series title. Fans are getting impatient -- especially in the wake of the White Sox's title in 2005. Despite the fact the Cubs drew more than 3 million fans for a third year in a row, there were plenty of no-shows late in the year, and television ratings have taken a big dip.

That's why the Cubs need a boost, and they hope Piniella can give it to them.

The Cubs finished in last place in '06 and need starting pitching and power hitting help. It's believed they will spend between $110 million-$115 million in 2007.


--RHP Mark Prior, who was hampered by shoulder injuries throughout 2006, might not be on schedule to be ready for spring training again. He's consulted with three doctors since the end of the season, and they agreed that he has some "looseness" in the shoulder and needs to work hard on strengthening it during the offseason or he might not be ready to go in February.

--RHP Kerry Wood, who has had a slow recovery from August 2005 shoulder surgery, was throwing the ball from about 40-50 feet in Arizona but is not going to be ready to throw off a mound for a little while. The Cubs will not exercise a $13.5 million option on Wood for next season. They will buy him out for $3 million and offer a restructured deal based on incentives. Whether he comes back to the Cubs or chooses to go the free agent route, he likely will return as a reliever.

--CF Juan Pierre appears to be heading the free agent route rather than signing a deal with the Cubs, but team officials say that they will still pursue him. If he doesn't come back, the Cubs could look at potential free agent Alfonso Soriano as a leadoff man and center fielder.

--3B Aramis Ramirez's agents and general manager Jim Hendry have exchanged numbers in hopes of restructuring his deal, and the Cubs continue to feel confident he wants to come back. Ramirez is in the middle of a four-year, $42 million contract and he has an "out" clause in the deal. Ramirez could become a free agent after the World Series if the contract is not redone.

--Pitching coach Larry Rothschild was inked to a two-year deal on Oct. 17. Rothschild has been with the Cubs since 2002 in the Don Baylor era. He could be the only holdover from Dusty Baker's regime.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1,519 -- Number of wins for new manager Lou Piniella, which is fourth best among active managers and 18th best in major league history.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're going to win here, and that's the end of the story." -- New Cubs manager Lou Piniella.

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