Notes: Rookie Soto gets Game 1 start
Cubs make lineup tweaks; roster moves don't come easy
PHOENIX -- Rookie catcher Geovany Soto started Wednesday for the Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks over veteran Jason Kendall. Whether Soto will start Game 2 or 3 will be determined.
"This is the first game, and we'll see how the youngster responds," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Wednesday. "It's not an easy decision. We'll have a better idea after tonight."
The Diamondbacks do run, led by Eric Byrnes, who has 50 steals. Soto has been better at gunning down basestealers since his callup Sept. 4, throwing out four of 10. Kendall has thrown out two of 51 basestealers.
"He's done a good job in September," Piniella said of Soto, the MVP of the Pacific Coast League. "He can pop the ball. He throws relatively well and at the same time, he's caught all these pitchers, including way back when in Spring Training.
"We're comfortable with him. We'll see. He's young, and we know it. Arizona is playing a lot of young people."
Kendall has played in 1,682 big league games, while Soto has been in 30. The veteran has worked with the rookie the past month.
"Geo has had a good month, and he'll be doing this for a long time," Kendall said. "It's all about winning."
But isn't he hurt?
"I'm not hurt," said Kendall, whom the Cubs acquired July 16 from Oakland. "Everybody wants to play. If you don't want to play, you're in the wrong business. We'll see what happens. He'll be fine."
Kendall has been impressed by the young catcher.
"Geo wants to win," Kendall said. "That's the main part about it to me. He's somebody who wants to learn, he wants to take it to another level. This is a fun part of the year."
Former Cubs pitcher Mike Harkey, who was the pitching coach at Triple-A Iowa and worked with Soto, thinks the youngster is ready.
"From his time in April to now, I think he's 100 times more polished," Harkey said. "He had some issues earlier about what it is he thought he was supposed to do, as opposed to what he was supposed to go out and do.
"We've had a lot of conversations as far as what he perceived as his shortcomings in calling a game. What's hard for young catchers is to put both hitting and catching together at the same time. I think the fact that offensively, he's as solid as anybody can be at Triple-A, he still made great strides in calling the game. Usually, either they hit or they catch, and he did both."
Scorecard: The Cubs tweaked their lineup for Game 1, moving Jacque Jones up to the No. 2 spot in the lineup while dropping Ryan Theriot to eighth.
"We've used this lineup before," Piniella said. "Left-handers have hit .272 off [Arizona starter Brandon] Webb, and right-handers .199. We tried to put some left-hand hitting at the top of the lineup and see how it works."
Plus, the Diamondbacks have one left-handed reliever in the 'pen, and Piniella wanted two right-handed batters between the left-handed-hitting Jones and Cliff Floyd.
Roster moves: Piniella said making the final decisions regarding the 25-man roster weren't easy.
"I'm sure there was disappointment," he said. "It was rough on us."
The players who aren't on the active roster, such as Sean Marshall and Will Ohman will be allowed to dress and be in the dugout for the games.
Start me up: Piniella still would like to stick to a three-man rotation but may change his mind for Game 4, if the NLDS goes that long.
"Our plans are a three-man rotation, but let's see how things go," Piniella said. "I don't have any concerns [about using Carlos Zambrano on short rest]. It gives us a chance to pitch our two starters, one and two, twice. Jason's [Marquis] been struggling."
Marquis had a 6.21 ERA in seven games in September and hasn't been consistent.
"You'll see that today if we have a nice lead, we'll let Zambrano throw 100 pitches and then go to the bullpen," Piniella said.
He wasn't worried about hurting Marquis' feelings -- or anyone's else's.
"I'm looking to win baseball games," Piniella said. "We'll pitch whoever helps us win baseball games."
Name game: For some reason, Piniella has a tough time remembering reliever Scott Eyre's name. He's called him Steve Eyre, Steve Ire or Scotty Ire. On Wednesday, Piniella botched Eyre's name again when talking about the bullpen.
"Why do I say Steve all the time?" Piniella said.
Fortunately, Eyre laughs about it, and had a glove made with "Steve Ire" stitched on the side.
History lesson: Forget the "lovable loser" label on the Cubs. Former Cubs player Bob Dernier, the team's baserunning instructor, says they're trying to develop a winning attitude in the Minor Leagues.
"We need to have that type of thinking," Dernier said. "The Yankees qualified 13 years in a row, and everybody is worried about their job if they don't. Those of us who know what winning looks like, we expect to win."
Yes, the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. Piniella isn't counting.
"This is the 2007 Cubs, and we should just be concerned about the 2007 Cubs, nothing more, nothing less," Piniella said. "What's transpired in the past is really of no significance now. We've got an opportunity ahead of us to win these next two series and go on to the World Series.
"We'll give every effort, that's all we can do. We'll play as hard as we can. I think what's happened in the past has happened. I don't think it has any bearings on now."
Quote of the day: "The players play on the field. I've always said that. My job basically is to steer the game, make some pitching changes if I have to, pinch-hit. I like to stay away from double switches as much as I can in the postseason, because I like my better players on the field. I want my team to relax and just let them play and have fun. That was my message to them a little while ago. I put out the lineup and make the changes that I have to, but the players get it done." -- Piniella, on his influence
Extra bases: With lefty Doug Davis starting Game 2 on Thursday, expect Matt Murton in right field in place of Floyd. ... Tickets for a potential National League Championship Series will go on sale Thursday via the Internet at cubs.com and by telephone through Tickets.com. ... Tyler Colvin, the Cubs' No. 1 Draft pick in 2006, will play for Team USA later this month in Taiwan. He took one week off after the Minor League season ended to go fishing, but is working out at the team's facility in Mesa, Ariz., now. Watching the Cubs in the postseason is exciting. "I got to play with all the guys for a little bit, and now I get to watch them and cheer for them with a little more conviction since I know each one of them," said Colvin, who met many of the players in Spring Training. "It's nice to see where they're at and where they can go." ... The Cubs went 6-3 against left-handed starters in September and were 9-5 dating back to Aug. 16. They lost eight of 10 against lefties from July 4-Aug. 15. ... Mark Prior, who has been rehabbing his right shoulder in San Diego, joined the team on Wednesday as well.
On deck: Ted Lilly (15-8, 3.83 ERA) will face Arizona's Davis (13-12, 4.25 ERA) in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Thursday. First pitch is scheduled for 9:07 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast on TBS.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.