Piniella Trying to Keep Cubs Fresh

It's pretty easy to figure why manager Lou Piniella wants to continue giving his regulars a day off now and then down the stretch.

The latest was shortstop Ryan Theriot, who did not start Sunday night. Theriot also got the benefit of Monday's off day before the Cubs play the Braves on Tuesday night in Atlanta.

Most of the Cubs' key players have suffered drops in both their batting average and on-base percentage since the All-Star break.

Interestingly, Theriot has fared relatively well. His batting average has fallen from .320 at the break to .314, and his on-base percentage has dropped from .394 to .390. The .390 OBP is the best among Cubs regulars.

First baseman Derrek Lee's OBP has dropped from .372 to .356. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez has gone from .386 to .379. Infielder/outfielder Mark DeRosa has fallen from .377 to .369.

Catcher Geovany Soto has gone from .369 to .358. The man under the microscope is right fielder Kosuke Fukudome, once considered responsible for turning the Cubs into a high-OBP team because of his patience at the plate earlier in the year.

After putting up a .416 OBP by the end of April, Fukudome dropped to .383 at the break and to .369 heading into Tuesday. Piniella has talked of giving Fukudome some bench time if he doesn't start hitting soon.

Pulling their weight on the OBP end since the break are left fielder Alfonso Soriano and center fielders Jim Edmonds and Reed Johnson. Soriano missed eight weeks because of injuries. Johnson and Edmonds share time in an effective platoon in center field.

With players such as infielders Ronny Cedeno and Mike Fontenot waiting in the wings, that bench could fill up with regulars during the next two weeks as Piniella seeks to keep his team fresh for September.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Carlos Marmol extended his scoreless-innings streak to 11 2/3 with a 1-2-3 ninth Sunday night. Marmol's streak covers 11 games. He is 2 1/3 innings short of tying his season-best streak of 14 scoreless innings, achieved April 21 to May 17.

--RHP Ryan Dempster has taken over the team lead in victories, with 13. Dempster's record is 13-5. RHP Carlos Zambrano is 12-5. Dempster also leads the Cubs in quality starts with 16, one ahead of Zambrano and LHP Ted Lilly.

--RHP Rich Harden, who opens the series in Atlanta, faced the Braves this year as a member of the Athletics on May 17. Harden got the win May 17 in a 5-4 victory. He pitched seven innings, giving up one run and four hits. Harden is coming off a relatively rough outing with the Cubs. He gave up eight hits and five runs (four earned) Aug. 5 in a victory over Houston. Harden got a no-decision.

--IF/OF Mark DeRosa is coming off a successful homestand as he gets set to take on his former team, the Braves. DeRosa was 9-for-26 with two homers, three doubles and 11 RBI on the recent homestand. DeRosa is happiest when playing second base, but in addition to playing second, he also played right field and third base on the homestand. DeRosa could find himself back in right field if manager Lou Piniella makes good on his threat to bench RF Kosuke Fukudome if Fukudome doesn't start hitting again.

--LHP Neal Cotts will need some work soon. Cotts, who took over as the main lefty reliever after Scott Eyre was traded to the Phillies last, has not worked since Aug. 4, when he pitched a scoreless inning against the Astros.


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