CHC@MIL: Baker lines an RBI single to right field

CHICAGO -- John Baker returned behind the plate Friday afternoon, hitting eighth as the Cubs opened a three-game series with the Marlins at Wrigley Field.

Baker missed Thursday's game with inflamed vocal cords after taking a foul ball to the throat the previous day.

Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Baker will wear a guard to protect the area, but added "there's nothing we can do to hurt it any more or any less."

Baker also isn't supposed to talk, so expect mound visits to be few and far between during the next few games -- though Renteria said Baker could talk, if needed.

Blackhawks take batting practice hacks at Wrigley

CHICAGO -- Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell played baseball growing up, but his swing didn't look as sharp as his slap shot Friday morning as he and a group of teammates took batting practice at Wrigley Field.

"I played baseball until I was 16, and it's true -- if you don't use it, you lose it," Bickell said. "The swing wasn't there, but I had fun with the guys."

Michal Handzus, Sheldon Brookbank, Patrick Sharp and Bickell each took swings before the Cubs opened a three-game series with the Marlins. Bickell hit a ball off the wall and Sharp was able to get a couple to the warning track, but he couldn't replicate the home run he said he hit at U.S. Cellular Field.

"The wind must be blowing in because I didn't get one out," Sharp said. "You've got to have some respect for these guys. It looks like they're just swinging a bat, but I can only imagine a real pitcher throwing it 95 mph with movement and all that stuff."

Sharp and the Blackhawks saw their season end last week with a Game 7 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Despite the setback, the players said they were thankful for the support of the city and fans.

"A lot of fans that I've been seeing on the streets and stuff like that, they're still proud," Bickell said. "To come back [from down] 3-1 and force a Game 7 and have an OT, we had everyone on the edge of their chairs. We fell short, and we're just going to be hungrier next year."

Cubs manager Rick Renteria said he hopes the Cubs can eventually join the Blackhawks in having sustained success and competing for championships.

"Absolutely," Renteria said. "I think the process of turning anything around may seem daunting, but you keep chipping away. It would be great for the Cubs to be a part of that championship landscape."