Rotation Has Room for Improvement

As much as the Cubs' bullpen is a work in progress, manager Lou Piniella wants his starting pitchers to ease the burden a bit.

Piniella was critical of his bullpen after a 7-4 loss to the Cardinals Thursday, when the bullpen gave up two runs in the seventh and one in the eighth.

"What we need, really, is a little more from our starters," Piniella said Friday. "If we get more from our starters, we don't have to get as deep in our bullpen."

What hurt the Cubs was a three-inning start by Rich Harden Wednesday. Sean Marshall pitched creditably Thursday, but lasted only five innings.

Piniella had to use four relievers Wednesday and five on Thursday. Aaron Heilman bounced back after giving up a homer Thursday to gain the victory Friday as the Cubs beat the Cardinals 8-7.

"I have confidence that these guys can get the job done, so let's just give them the ball and go," Piniella said.

Piniella said the seventh inning is a key, and Heilman is his main there. Piniella has Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg for the eighth and ninth. But getting starters to go deeper into games is going to take getting their pitch counts down. Harden threw 92 in three innings this week, and Marshall tossed 93 in five innings.

CUBS 8, CARDINALS 7: LF Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer with one out in the bottom of the eighth to rally the Cubs from a 7-6 deficit. Soriano struck out three times in the game before homering. RHP Carlos Zambrano gave up nine hits and seven runs, but he lasted seven innings. RHP Carlos Marmol got into trouble in the ninth, but earned his second save.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Marmol closed in place of Gregg Friday. Piniella said Marmol was warming up in the eighth inning and that's why he went to him. Marmol has two saves and an 0.00 ERA. Gregg has one save and an ERA of 9.00. Piniella says Gregg still is the closer but that there will be save opportunities for both late-inning men.

--RF Milton Bradley went a second straight day without commenting on his ejection from Thursday's game. Bradley was tossed by plate umpire Larry Vanover for arguing a called third strike. The Cubs say they have not heard whether Major League Baseball will suspend Bradley for possibly making contact with Vanover. Bradley still has not started since Sunday because of a strained right groin.

--The Sports XChange

MINORS WATCH

IOWA 8, ROUND ROCK 3 (CLASS AAA)

At Des Moines, the Cubs (6-3) picked up 15 hits in the victory Friday. 1B Jake Fox continued his early season assault on Pacific Coast League pitching, finishing 2-for-5 with his fifth home run. Fox has hit safely in nine straight games to open the season and has four straight multi-hit games. RF Brad Snyder hit a solo home run as part of a 1-for-4 performance. SS Andres Blanco picked up three hits and 2B Bobby Scales finished 3-for-4 with three doubles. RHP Randy Wells (1-0) started and pitched five innings, allowing three runs and six hits en route to the victory. He struck out six batters and walked three.

TENNESSEE 9, BIRMINGHAM 0 (CLASS AA)

At Sevierville, RHP Casey Coleman (2-0) tossed a career-high seven scoreless innings, allowing only three hits in the Smokies' (4-4) victory Friday. Coleman struck out four batters and walked one. C Welington Castillo (1-for-4) and RF Jim Adduci (1-for-2) each had three-run doubles, and SS Darwin Barney added two hits, including a double. RHP John Gaub and LHP Jayson Ruhlman tossed scoreless innings in relief to close things out.

DAYTONA 5, LAKELAND 1 (CLASS HIGH-A)

At Lakeland, Fla., the Cubs (4-4) out-hit the Flying Tigers, 11-3, en route to the victory Friday. C Mark Reed (3-for-4) picked up a season-high three hits and CF Drew Rundle (2-for-4) picked up his first multi-hit game of the season. RHP Dan McDaniel (2-0) started and tossed 5 1/3 innings of one-hit ball, allowing one run. He struck out two batters and walked two.

QUAD CITIES 4, PEORIA 2 (CLASS-A)

At Davenport, Iowa, the River Bandits scored three runs in the eighth inning to down Peoria (4-4) Friday. RHP Christopher Archer started for Peoria and tossed five innings, allowing a run and three hits. RHP Alberto Cabrera (0-1) suffered the blown save, allowing three runs in 2 1/3 innings in relief. C Michael Brenly (2-for-3) and DH Josh Harrison (2-for-4) led the Chiefs offense with two hits apiece.

--Staff Reports

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