Notes: Spring treating Miller well
Likely to make No. 5, righty fine-tuning approach in final weeks
MESA, Ariz. -- For the first time since 2004, Wade Miller will be on a team's Opening Day roster. It feels pretty good.
Miller is penciled in as the Cubs' fifth starter, and he tuned up on Monday by pitching 3 1/3 innings against the Seattle Mariners. The right-hander gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits, including a typical Arizona home run by Adrian Beltre.
"I'm looking forward to making this team and doing good and putting up some wins for this team," said Miller, whose right shoulder has sidelined him the last two years. "It'll be nice to start the season healthy and get right after it."
Beltre's homer in the third was proof that Spring Training stats for pitchers in Arizona can be misleading. The ball seemed to float to left until it cleared the fence.
"I can't believe [left fielder Cliff Floyd] kept on drifting," Miller said. "You get them in the air here, and they're going to go."
"When that ball went out of the ballpark, the three-run homer, he dug his heels in a little bit and threw the ball the best he did all day," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of Miller. "You could see it got his dander up a little bit."
What's important is that Miller is getting his work in.
"Everything's working out fine," he said. "I was able to fine-tune a few things the last couple innings. I think I know where I want to be going into my next start, next bullpen."
Miller underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in September 2005, and so far, it's passed all the tests.
"As long as I'm able to come back every five days and feel all right and not have any problems, that's exactly what I was looking for coming in," he said. "As long as I can accomplish that, I feel pretty good about that."
Penmanship: Michael Wuertz has made the Opening Day 25-man roster.
"He competes well, he throws strikes, he's done a nice job," Piniella said of the right-hander, who compiled a 2.66 ERA in 41 games last season for the Cubs. "As long as he stays healthy the rest of the spring and gets his work in, he'll be on the team."
That leaves one bullpen spot open, and youngsters Angel Guzman and Rocky Cherry are battling for that vacancy. Both have impressed Piniella this spring.
"I wouldn't hesitate with either of them in the bullpen if we have to," Piniella said. "I like both kids. What's Spring Training for but to come here and compete and earn yourself a job? If the numbers work out, they both pitched well enough here that they warrant an opportunity. I'd feel comfortable with both of them in my bullpen if that's what it takes."
Guzman has appeared in four games so far and given up seven earned runs on eight hits and one walk over 9 2/3 innings. Cherry has served up one earned run on five hits and four walks over eight innings, including a scoreless ninth on Monday.
The Cubs have tweaked Guzman's delivery and moved him to the right side of the pitching rubber, a move that may fix some of his problems. Why was he on the left? Greg Maddux suggested that the right-hander shift a little because Guzman was having trouble throwing to the outside corner of the plate against right-handers.
"That was one of the tips Greg Maddux gave me -- I used to pitch on the right," Guzman said.
Guzman felt comfortable with the adjustment on Sunday, and he will pitch in relief on Tuesday to test it again.
"It won't be that hard to get used to," Guzman said.
The news that Wuertz had made the final 25 is a relief. He was slowed because of a strained right shoulder.
"The ball's coming out of my hand good," Wuertz said. "It was just one of those setbacks. It might have been for the best. My velocity feels good. Everything is where it needs to be."
Step by step: Daryle Ward was batting .111 (3-for-27) before Monday's game, and he came through with a pair of two-run doubles. He knows he needs to get a few more at-bats. Make that a lot more.
"It's a matter of getting my strength back, and timing is key," he said on Monday. "I missed some crucial days early in camp, facing live pitchers. It's just me getting my rhythm and everything going."
Ward was one of the players sidelined with the flu, and he finally got over his sickness after taking some antibiotics.
"Now, it's just a matter of getting in games, and getting my timing and getting ready to go," he said.
Ward looked ready on the field on Sunday when he picked up an infield hit and threw out the runner at first, throwing in time to Carlos Zambrano, who was covering. Good thing the two didn't crash into each other.
"I had my eye on him," Ward said. "I made sure we weren't in the same area. That'd be a pretty bad collision, me and him. That was a pretty nice play. He moves good, and he got to the base where he was set. I didn't want to throw it to him on the run."
Holiday gift: At Christmas, when all of the relatives were at the O'Malley house, they watched a tape of the Cubs' Aug. 16 game against Houston. Ryan O'Malley will never forget it. He was called up that morning from Triple-A Iowa and drove from Round Rock to Houston to face the Astros. He threw eight shutout innings and picked up the win.
"My hometown has a lot of Cubs fans," said O'Malley, who lives in Springfield, Ill., in the offseason. "It was a dream come true for myself and my family. Springfield was great. When I came home, it was a different offseason for me, in a good way.
"People would come up and tell me where they were when the game was going on, and how they watched it, and how they heard about it, and how cool it was," he said.
O'Malley gives lessons to youngsters in the offseason, working with about 25 kids. He is also part of a baseball camp. The kids had a lot of questions for him this winter.
O'Malley has watched a tape of the game a couple of times, partly to remember it, and partly because he wanted to see if he could spot when he might have been injured. He sprained his left forearm and was shut down for the remainder of the season. He's healthy now and in Cubs camp as a non-roster invitee, hoping to make a good impression.
"I wanted to come into camp and show people I was healthy and ready to go again," he said. "When they took me off the roster, I knew I'd have to fight and claw and do everything I could to get back. I want them to know if they need somebody, I'm ready to go again."
O'Malley heard rumors about a movie featuring his quick rise to the big leagues, but no one has approached him. He could play himself. The left-hander was approached by producers of the reality show "The Bachelor," but he didn't audition because the show needed him during the baseball season.
"Baseball's what I want to do," he said. "Little things like that are funny. I give everything I have every day, and when I get that ball again, I'll be ready."
Extra bases: Derrek Lee went 4-for-5 with three RBIs on Monday. He's now batting .513 this spring (20-for-39). Michael Barrett belted two home runs on Monday in the Cubs' 24-hit attack against the Mariners. He was obviously upset after an earlier game. Not Monday. "I don't like to feel like I let anything get away, even if it is Spring Training," Barrett said. "I was ticked off. I know it's Spring Training, but I worked too hard and came too far to get to this point and play around." ... Zambrano didn't get a chance to hit in his start on Sunday in Tempe against the Angels, but he did get a pinch-hit at-bat on Monday in Mesa. He struck out swinging. ... Piniella isn't sure if he'll go with an extra infielder or outfielder. "Truthfully, we could use two positions," Piniella said. "That's not going to happen, so we'll adjust." ... Angel Pagan got 11 at-bats in Minor League camp on Sunday as he tries to make up for lost time. Pagan has been sidelined with a strained oblique. ... Jacque Jones started in center field in the Cubs' game against the Brewers in Maryvale on Monday. "In the event Soriano is not playing one day for whatever reason, we'd better be covered there," Piniella said. Maybe the move inspired Jones. He hit a three-run homer. ... Expect more roster cuts after Tuesday's game. The regulars will be playing more starting this weekend. ... Matt Sinatro made his debut on Monday in Mesa as the Cubs' first-base coach. He's been slowed after offseason surgery on his left knee.
On deck: The Cubs will travel down Interstate 10 to Tucson for the last time this spring on Tuesday for a 3:05 p.m. CT matchup with the Rockies. Left-hander Ted Lilly will make his third start and fourth Cactus League appearance. Also scheduled to pitch is closer Ryan Dempster, who was sidelined for a few days because of spasms in his shoulders.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.