Third baseman Aramis Ramirez should be able to return to the lineup Monday after battling a sore left calf since April 24. First baseman Derrek Lee and right fielder Milton Bradley have come back from nagging injuries, and the Cubs badly need for their heart of the order to be in the lineup together every day.
Piniella will have some interesting choices to make when that happens. He said Sunday he was considering "changing things up" with his 3-4-5 hitters, but he declined to be specific.
What Piniella has liked in recent days is shortstop Ryan Theriot hitting second and outfielder Kosuke Fukudome batting third. Both have been the Cubs' most consistent hitters over the first month when the offense as a whole has struggled.
If Piniella keeps Theriot and Fukudome 2-3, he'll have to move one of his big boppers into the No. 6 hole. A week ago, Piniella talked of Bradley hitting sixth. Lee had been in a power slump until hitting a long home run Saturday and a grand slam Sunday. Piniella could move Lee down, but he's likely to shuffle the order on a daily basis no matter what he promises.
CUBS 6, MARLINS 4
Lee hit a grand slam in the fifth inning to break a 2-2 tie and enable the Cubs to win three of four in the series. RHP Carlos Zambrano (3-1) got the win, going five innings. He left the game with a strained left hamstring after bunting for a hit in the fifth. RHP Kevin Gregg earned his third save and second in three days.
--The Cubs say they'll need a couple of days to evaluate Zambrano, who is scheduled to start Friday at Milwaukee. That start is "in jeopardy," according to Piniella. Zambrano was scheduled to have an MRI Sunday night, and the Cubs said they'd know the results Monday.
--Bradley heard the boo-birds at Wrigley Field after striking out in the eighth inning. Bradley has struggled at the plate and also was slowed by a groin injury. He's 5-for-43 (.116) for the year. Piniella removed him for defense in the ninth inning, replacing him in right with Fukudome, who moved over from center and made a nice catch to end the game.
--Theriot has hit safely in six straight games, going 9-for-26 with a pair of homers and six RBI. He singled twice Sunday, including a bunt single in the four-run fifth inning.
BY THE NUMBERS: 620 -- Theriot went a calendar year and 620 at-bats without a home run before hitting a grand slam against the Marlins last Friday. Then he homered the next day.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We can send them to a spa." -- Piniella, on whether his team needed a meeting to solve its problems.
The walking wounded are almost all healed, so the Cubs may be getting ready to put an offensive attack together and sustain it. Bradley is playing again after suffering a groin injury on April 12. Lee had a brief bout with neck spasms, and Ramirez seems all set to return to the lineup after suffering with a left-calf strain.
Inconsistency has been the hallmark on both offense and defense. The relievers have walked too many to suit Piniella, but the Cubs were able to hang close through some difficult times. They'll hold their breath on Zambrano, who strained his left hamstring Sunday and went for an MRI.
--Lee's grand slam was his second homer in two days. It was his first grand slam since May 19, 2007. Lee has homered in back-to-back games for the first time since April 15-16, 2008. Lee said he'd like to mix in a few other base hits to go with the homers. He's hitting .209 for the season.
--INF Mike Fontenot, who has been subbing for Ramirez at third base, hit his fifth homer of the year. He had nine last year in 243 at-bats. Fontenot extended his hitting streak to four games (6-for-13). Ramirez took grounders at third Sunday morning but did not play as he recovers from a left-calf strain. He is likely to start Monday.
--The Sports XChange
DAYTONA 7, CLEARWATER 4 (CLASS HIGH-A)
At Clearwater, Fla., the Cubs (10-13) used five ninth-inning runs to rally for the victory Sunday. SS Starlin Castro (2-for-3) hit a go-ahead two-run home run, his first of the year, and C Robinson Chirinos (3-for-4) paced the offense with three hits, finishing a triple shy of the cycle and hitting his first home run. RHP Ryan Searle started and received a no-decision, allowing no earned runs and two hits in five innings. He struck out five batters and walked one. RHP Al Alburquerque (1-0) got the win in relief with a scoreless eighth inning. RHP David Cales pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his third save.
CEDAR RAPIDS 2, PEORIA 1 (CLASS-A)
At Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Chiefs (11-11) collected just six hits in the 11-inning loss Sunday. DH Josh Vitters (2-for-5) and LF Josh Harrison (2-for-4, double) had two hits to lead the offense. RHP Chris Carpenter started and tossed six shutout innings of one-hit ball in a no-decision. He struck out a career-high eight batters and walked three. RHP Chris Huseby (0-2) suffered the loss in relief.
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