Notes: Lee, Miller push injuries aside
First baseman excited about offense; righty eager to compete
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee arrived early Saturday, took some swings in the batting cage and reports his right wrist is healthy and strong.
Lee, limited to 50 games last season after fracturing his wrist in mid-April, is looking forward to batting third in the Cubs' revamped lineup.
"I love this lineup -- I love our depth," Lee said. "If we get good pitching with our lineup, we'll have a hard time not scoring runs. It should be exciting."
The addition of leadoff man Alfonso Soriano certainly helps.
"He's instant offense," Lee said of the 40-40-40 (homers-doubles-steals) outfielder. "He can beat you with his legs or his power. He gives the other team something else to worry about. In the leadoff spot, he's the first guy you have to deal with and he makes the other team uncomfortable for sure."
Position players do not have to report until Monday, with the first full-squad workout at Fitch Park on Tuesday.
Arms race: Mark Prior isn't the only pitcher in Cubs camp who expects to be in the rotation on Opening Day. Wade Miller is thinking the same thing.
Miller, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in September 2005, is keeping pace with the rest of the pitchers. He feels the best he's felt in two years.
"That's what I should be doing, I guess," he said about throwing 30 pitches on the first day of workouts and 35 on Saturday. "This offseason, I did a lot of strengthening and stuff. I don't have any problems long tossing or throwing off the mound."
It's a welcome change after the last two seasons when Miller's focus was on rehab, not the regular season.
"I'm pain free," he said. "I just have to work on location, that sort of thing, like everybody else. Strength-wise, I feel strong. I just have to get baseball strong."
What did he do differently this winter?
"I didn't have surgery this winter -- that helps," Miller said. "It's a year and a half removed from surgery. They said it should feel pretty good now."
He's been able to throw full speed in his side sessions, which is encouraging. Miller could be a nice surprise for the Cubs staff. He knows nothing is guaranteed.
"I have to be able to pitch in games and get outs," he said. "You have to prove you can do it."
"Wade had a good winter," Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "He's felt fine all along. A year after the surgery is when you feel normal again. Now he's a year removed from it and had a season under his belt."
Long man: One of manager Lou Piniella's top priorities this spring is to find a long man in the 'pen. Lefty Neal Cotts could handle that role.
Cotts has made five starts in his career, although four of those were in 2003, and one in 2004. He's been used in relief since by the White Sox. Don't be surprised if he starts a game or two in the Cactus League.
"I need to work on my pitches and get innings down here," Cotts said. "That's the best way to do it, in Spring Training."
Being a long reliever is a tough role. On the one hand, you want to pitch. On the other hand, long relievers usually don't get called upon unless a starter is in trouble.
"You just pick up wherever they need you," Cotts said. "It's a role that's essential. You have to keep your team in the game."
"If we don't give him starts [in Spring Training], we'll get him a lot of innings," Rothschild said. "When a kid who has started goes in the bullpen, they sometimes lose their feel for a second and third pitch and command of the fastball. The idea is to give him innings. A lot of the people who saw him in the Minor Leagues, some of our scouts, liked him as a starter. It's in our best interest to see him extended a little bit."
Numbers game: Jason Marquis is getting a little flak for wearing No. 21, the first to do so since Sammy Sosa. Did you know that 10 Cubs wore No. 10 after Ron Santo, and two Cubs wore No. 26 after Billy Williams? No other Cubs wore Nos. 14 or 23 after Ernie Banks and Ryne Sandberg.
As for No. 21, 30 different players have worn that number with the Cubs, including George Altman, Eddie Miksis, Scott Sanderson, Burleigh Grimes and Lennie Merullo.
Food stuff: Fans attending Cubs games at HoHoKam Park should come hungry. The stadium has upgraded its concessions this year, and patrons now can purchase white cheese veggie pizza and chicken tacos with salsa. The hot dogs have been dressed up and come with many more condiments, and you will need two people to eat one of the "Big Pat Burgers" named for Dwight Patterson, the local rancher who played a key role in bringing Major League Baseball to Mesa.
Ovations Food Service takes over the food and beverage concessions at the Cubs' home ballpark, and they not only improved the menu, but also spruced up the concourse and added a new gift shop. Among the food stations are the Salt River Cantina, which has burritos, tacos and nachos, and Pizzaiolo, which offers fresh Tuscan style pizza. Fans of "Dippin Dots" ice cream will be happy to know that's available, too.
The Cubs open Cactus League play March 1 at HoHoKam against the San Francisco Giants.
New look: The Cubs have new batting practice jerseys and caps that they unveiled in Spring Training. The shirts have wide white stripes on the side with red trim, and there is some red and white trim above the ear on the caps. The team will no longer have anything navy -- no navy colored caps or fleece tops. However, during the regular season, they will still have dark alternate game jerseys, which pitcher Carlos Zambrano usually prefers. ... Piniella and Soriano posed for a photo for Sports Illustrated after Saturday's workout. ... Among the other pitchers who threw Saturday were Zambrano, Will Ohman, Scott Eyre, Ted Lilly, Marquis, Ryan Dempster and Jeff Samardzija.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.