Notes: Piniella pushing for better ball
Hill solid despite head cold; Pie's destiny may hinge on Soriano
MESA, Ariz. -- Lou Piniella is still looking for his first win with the Cubs, and still looking for some better baseball.
"I'm glad it was only Spring Training," Piniella said after his first Cubs-White Sox game Sunday, in which the Sox romped, 13-2, at HoHoKam Park. "That's the only good, saving grace out of this thing. Our pitchers aren't pitching well, and our hitters aren't hitting very well. Outside of that, we're OK."
He tried to smile. Cactus League wins and losses won't matter after April 1. Still, Piniella would like to see a "W."
"It'd be nice to win a ballgame once in a while," he said.
The Cubs have been outscored, 36-15, in four games this spring, and have stranded 28 baserunners. On Sunday, reliever Juan Mateo walked the first two batters he faced before serving up Jermaine Dye's home run, one of five hit by the White Sox in the game.
"I've only been here four days, but I certainly don't like what I see," Piniella said. "I'm being truthful. There's a whole lot of work to do here. I'm talking about everything. You walk people, and right after the walks come the big flys. The ball carries well in Arizona, but it seems like it's only carrying for the other side right now."
These games may not count, but that doesn't change Piniella's competitive fire.
"Who likes to lose? You put the uniform on, and you want to compete and you want to come out on top," he said. "Teams that win the most games in Spring Training usually don't do nearly as well in the season, but at the same time, you'd like to see games be competitive, good baseball where the pitchers are making good pitches, your hitters are getting timely hitting, and if the other team beats you, so what?
"We're getting lopsided here," he said. "I can't do anything about it now. I have to keep running these people out because we need numbers. When I can do something about it is cut time, and then we'll do something about it, and hopefully quick."
Head cold: Piniella admitted he would have started Rich Hill some other day than against the White Sox on Sunday to avoid rekindling any bad blood between the lefty and the Cubs' intracity rivals. Hill was more concerned about staying in the game long enough despite a bad cough.
Sunday was Day 5 for Hill, who has been wearing a towel around his face in the clubhouse to avoid infecting his teammates. He gave up two hits to the White Sox, including Paul Konerko's solo homer with two outs in the first, and struck out three over two innings in the White Sox's victory over the Cubs. Hopefully, Hill found some chicken noodle soup.
"Just to get through today was a good thing," said Hill, his voice raspy from his cough. "I wasn't thinking about taking it off at all. It's new management, new staff, and under any conditions you have to be willing to pitch. Whatever it takes. Today was a day to keep the team in the game."
He avoided any more run-ins with the White Sox. Hill was the starting pitcher in the May 20 game, when Cubs catcher Michael Barrett punched his White Sox counterpart, A.J. Pierzynski, after a collision at home plate. Hill defended Barrett's actions, which didn't go over well with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.
"Ozzie's a great guy and what he did for the city of Chicago in bringing a world championship is huge," Hill said Sunday. "What happened last year was in the heat of the moment. I know what he's done in the game, he's great for the game, and he's very positive."
Hill has talked to former Cubs pitcher David Aardsma, now with the White Sox, and also Neal Cotts, traded to the Cubs from the South Side team, and both endorsed Guillen.
Told that Piniella considered switching Hill, he coughed, then shrugged it off.
"The past is the past," Hill said. "What happened last year happened last year. Let's move on. People do things, and they're not really very proud of them. You move on. I'm looking forward to this year. If we put it together, it'll be a special year."
Said Konerko: "[Hill] looked good and threw the ball pretty well. He definitely looked better than I remembered."
Aches and pains: Outfielder Cliff Floyd is not expected to see any Cactus League action until March 10-12 as he continues to recover from surgery last October on his left foot.
Pitcher Roberto Novoa has some tightness in his right shoulder, which is why he hasn't been in a game yet. Reliever Michael Wuertz played catch on Sunday, and could see some action on Tuesday. Left-hander Sean Marshall, slowed because of his shoulder, will throw batting practice on Tuesday and could be in a game by Thursday or Friday.
"Things are going real well," Marshall said.
Outfielder Felix Pie jammed his right ankle when he slid into second base on Saturday, and first-round pick Tyler Colvin has some tightness in his right quadriceps. Both are on the travel squad for Monday's game against Seattle.
"Everything is minor," Piniella said of the injuries. "Things happen."
Young blood: Pie's fate may depend on whether Alfonso Soriano can make the switch from left to center field.
"What Felix needs is to improve his consistency with the bat," Piniella said. "All the rest of it is there -- the arm, the play in center field, running the bases. He needs to get to the point where the bat catches up to the other skills. He's certainly a very talented young man."
Piniella was the Seattle Mariners manager when the team drafted Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez didn't jump right into the big leagues. He played 17 games in 1994, batting .204, and then 48 games in 1995, when he hit .232.
"A lot of organizations, the first thing they say is, 'This guy isn't quite ready and if he doesn't do it at the big-league level, it'll hurt his progress,'" Piniella said. "I've never felt that way. If you give him an opportunity and if you're not quite ready, you go back down and work on the things that need to be worked on.
"We'll see how it shakes out this spring with Felix," Piniella said. "You don't rush players. You give them opportunities."
Extra bases: Derrek Lee hit his first home run of the spring leading off the fourth inning. ... Sunday's game drew a record crowd of 12,903 at HoHoKam Park, breaking the old mark of 12,894, set March 27, 2006, against the White Sox. ... Soriano's impressions of his first Cubs-White Sox game? "It's like New York Yankees and New York Mets," he said. ... In case you were wondering, Sammy Sosa hit the last inside-the-park homer for the Cubs in the regular season on Oct. 6, 2001, against Pittsburgh. Michael Barrett had an inside-the-park homer on Saturday against Oakland.
On deck: The Cubs travel to Peoria, Ariz., to face the Seattle Mariners on Monday at 2:05 p.m. CT. Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are both slated to pitch, along with new Cubs starter Ted Lilly. Prior and Lilly are scheduled to throw two innings each.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.