Left-handed pitcher Rich Hill is making a bid to be the National League Pitcher of the Month for April, and although he has a long way to go before he will pass up Carlos Zambrano as the ace of the staff, he has been impressive in the early part of the season.
Hill is 3-0 with an 0.41 ERA in his first three starts after he threw eight shutout innings to help beat Atlanta 3-0 on Thursday night.
Because the Cubs bullpen was taxed from a 14-inning game on Tuesday and the demotion of reliever Angel Guzman, which left the pitching
staff with 11 men, Hill's eight-inning gem gave the bullpen a breather as the team heads into a three-game home series with defending World Series champion St. Louis.
Hill allowed just four hits, walked three and struck out seven against the Braves.
CUBS 3, BRAVES 0: Rich Hill improved to 3-0 after throwing eight shutout innings, and Ryan Dempster notched his third consecutive save as the Cubs salvaged a split at Turner Field on Thursday night. Michael Barrett and Aramis Ramirez each hit their second homers of the season to power the Cubs offense.
RHP Ryan Dempster, who struggled in the final month and a half as the closer in 2006, is hoping he is back in form after converting
his third straight save opportunity with a 1-2-3 inning in a 3-0 victory over Atlanta on Thursday night.
CF Felix Pie moved from first to eighth in the order on Thursday night because the Cubs were facing a left-handed starting pitcher.
He was the only left-handed-hitting position player to start Thursday.
2B Mark DeRosa moved to right field on Thursday night against Atlanta. DeRosa has been an all-around player in his career and signed on for a three-year deal to become the Cubs' regular second baseman. But he has started at second, third and now right field in the first three weeks of the season.
CF Alfonso Soriano (strained left hamstring) has been taking batting practice and said he hopes to be able to return to the lineup on Friday against St. Louis. He injured the hamstring on Monday, and the Cubs may not let him get back into game action that quickly. Manager Lou Piniella is predicting Soriano will return Monday or Tuesday.
RHP Mark Prior (shoulder discomfort) will meet with Dr. James Andrews next week to figure out his next course of action. Prior shut things down April 12 after throwing two innings in a minor league game in extended spring training. He was demoted to Class AAA Iowa before spring training ended and was given extra time in
extended spring training to build up his innings and velocity. And while he insisted all spring his shoulder was fine, he said he felt discomfort after the two-inning stint.