Cubs Play Better But Drop Second Straight

Cubs manager Lou Piniella sounded as shell-shocked as anyone by the 16-5 pasting his club took in Monday's opener at Atlanta. But Piniella said he has moved on and that the Cubs would play better.

"I wasn't expecting anything like that, I don't think anybody was," he said. "It's behind us. It's only one loss. It wasn't pretty, but we'll get better, assuredly.

"You're going to have some clunkers along the way. If it happens sometime in the middle of the summer, you shrug your shoulders. When it happens on Opening Day, it's a little more profound. But look, you forget about it, and you just go forward."

Piniella added that he would monitor all aspects of the team early in case any tweaking was needed. Under the most scrutiny is the bullpen, which features three rookies. But it was veteran lefty John Grabow who suffered the loss and a blown save in Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Braves, putting the Cubs at 0-2.

"We're going to have to sort some things out here, period," Piniella said. "I said that coming out of spring training. One of them is the youth that we have in our bullpen. Obviously they pitched well enough in spring training to be here. But now they've got to pitch well enough to help us win baseball games. We can't go on one game."

The Cubs have been impressed all spring by the mound presence of rookie left-hander James Russell, who pitched two scoreless innings of relief Monday.

BRAVES 3, CUBS 2: Grabow hung a changeup to Chipper Jones in the bottom of the eighth, and Jones crushed it for a two-run homer that rallied Atlanta from a 2-1 deficit. That ruined a solid starting performance by Ryan Dempster, who worked six innings, giving up three hits and one run. Cubs batters hit into three double plays, making it five in two games.


--OF Tyler Colvin did not start, but Piniella said he would begin working other players into the lineup as early as Thursday's finale in Atlanta or by the weekend at Cincinnati. Colvin made the club out of spring training by hitting .468.

"I've got to play him," Piniella said. "He can't just sit. If we're not going to play him, he'd be down in the minor leagues playing every day. We'll get him some playing time here, and we'll see how he does."

--RHP Jeff Gray will open the season at Class AAA Iowa after battling a groin injury that cost him almost all of spring training. But he could be an early call-up if anyone in the young bullpen falters. The Cubs didn't want to rush Gray, but they said they liked the way he threw in the final days of spring. They obtained him in an offseason trade with Oakland.

--SS Ryan Theriot is 0-for-7 and without a walk in his first two games as the leadoff hitter. Theriot managed a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning to put the Cubs ahead 2-1. He has grounded into a double play in each of the Cubs' first two games.

--LHP Sean Marshall has worked in both games. He's pitched 3 2/3 innings, giving up no hits while striking out seven. But Piniella said it's too early to talk about changing Marshall's role. Marshall worked the seventh inning Wednesday, while Grabow came on in the eighth and suffered a blown save.

--LF Alfonso Soriano picked up his first two hits of the season. He hit a checked-swing double to right in the second inning against Jair Jurrjens. In the ninth, he lined a single to left against Atlanta closer Billy Wagner. Soriano was 0-for-4 in the first game. He also was running on some pitches and said his surgically repaired left knee has responded well.

"How I played today is how I want to be the whole season," he said.

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