Notes: Patterson extends hit streak

Notes: Patterson extends hit streak

CHICAGO -- Corey Patterson's motto this year is, "Be prepared."

The Chicago Cubs center fielder has taken that approach to the plate, and it's paid off. He has a hit in every one of the nine games so far and is batting .310 (13-for-42) in that stretch. New hitting coach Gene Clines has helped Patterson in the process.

"I think it's just how I prepare myself and get ready for every game," Patterson said of his approach. "I think your preparation is a key, really. That's what I focus on is how I prepare for the game. Whatever happens, happens.

"I try not to base my success on how I do in the game," he said, "but make sure I focus and prepare myself well. If I do that, I know the results will show in the game."

Patterson played both games of Wednesday's doubleheader against San Diego. He led off in the opener and was inserted into the No. 3 spot in the second game, going 2-for-9. He hit his first home run in the opener.

"Any time you talk to a player who has a hitting streak, it's definitely pretty nice," Patterson said. "It's just a payoff from what they're working on with early work and their focus and concentration."

The longest season-opening streak for a Cubs player is Vance Law's 16-game streak, which started the 1988 season.

Spring fling: Mark Prior pitched well in his season debut, which makes one wonder if Spring Training is overrated. Prior made one Cactus League start and was slowed by inflammation in his right elbow.

"I'm not to where I would like to be," Prior said after throwing six shutout innings Wednesday in the Cubs' 8-3 win over San Diego. "I've got some things to work on. As things warm up, you warm up. The reason [Spring Training] is six weeks is to get in shape. I'm not in 100-percent full shape but I'm getting there. It's coming."

It will help when the weather warms up. The gametime temperature for the second game Wednesday was a brisk 46 degrees and the northeast wind at 18 mph made it feel even colder.

"It was cold. I thought it was really cold," he said.

The radar gun was pretty hot, registering in the low 90s most of the game.

"The velocity comes when it warms up and it's not 35 degrees outside," he said. "I'm not a guy who can go out there without sleeves on and just John Wayne it kind of thing. I like it a little bit warmer than it was. That just comes with building arm strength, getting endurance and pitching innings."

The chilled, but boisterous, crowd of 39,230 at Wrigley Field helped Prior.

"They picked me up and boosted me up when I needed it," he said. "It was a nice little welcome back to the season."

Step by step: Aramis Ramirez started in the first game of the Cubs' doubleheader on Wednesday, but the team will keep an eye on the third baseman so he doesn't aggravate his tender groin.

Last year, Ramirez injured his groin on July 2 and didn't return to the lineup until July 18. Despite devoting time this offseason and in Spring Training to strengthening his groin, Ramirez apparently tweaked it running the bases over the weekend.

"I talked to Don Newcombe years ago and he said that was the worst injury for a pitcher," Baker said. "[Ramirez] worked on it this winter and worked hard. Everybody has something. I just hate that it's a groin [injury] for him. Eventually it'll go away."

Nomar Garciaparra also did not play both games of the twinbill, and Baker said that decision was strictly precautionary.

"With his history and the weather being cool, we've got to make sure he gets to the hot weather," Baker said. "Plus, it gives other guys a chance to play."

Neifi Perez benefited. He started both games, and was 6-for-9. Perez is still adjusting to life as a bench player. He spent most of his career as a starter until last season, and then asked San Francisco to release him when it was obvious his playing time was limited. The Cubs picked him up.

"It's really tough," Perez said about coming off the bench. "I'm just learning that. It's tough when you come in and the pitcher is throwing 89, 90, 95."

Let's play two: The Cubs and Padres talked about the possibility of playing one game on Wednesday and another on Thursday, which is an off day for both teams.

"But the schedule has it that it would've been 22 days in a row for the Padres to play, which is really against the rules unless you have to do it," Baker said. "It's a bright day, it's cool, but at least it's not wet."

The Cubs wanted Kerry Wood to start the first game in hopes that he would go deep in the game and leave the bullpen fresh in case Mark Prior struggled in the second game, his first start of the season.

Any advantage to playing a doubleheader early in the season?

"No," Baker said. "Early part of the season, there's nobody who has played more than nine innings in Spring Training. How do you prepare for 18 innings? There's no advantage.

"This is one of the perils of the unbalanced schedule," he said. "When a team comes in once, you've either got to play the doubleheader, or play on the off day, or come back late in the year. There's no real advantage. It is what it is, and as long as you're here you might as well win two."

   Todd Walker  /   2B
Born: 05/25/73
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 185 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R

Playing time: Baker hinted the Cubs' lineup will vary as the team adjusts to life without second baseman Todd Walker. Jerry Hairston Jr. will get most of the starts at second, Baker said.

"Everybody wants to play, but you can only play nine at a time," Baker said. "It's my job to play the best team.

"We'll deal with it as a daily thing," he said. "I have to mix and match for the best lineup on that day."

Class in session: Todd Wellemeyer was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday to make room on the Cubs' roster for Prior. But Wellemeyer stayed in Chicago and threw in the bullpen Wednesday with pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Wellemeyer will start Iowa's home opener on Friday.

Being back in the rotation is a good thing, Wellemeyer said.

I"m looking at it like that," he said. "It's going to enable me to get the innings I need. It could be a blessing in disguise.

"I'll be able to get my work, work on pitches and work on command, and I'll be ready to go," he said.

All-Stars: All five pitchers in the Cubs starting rotation are one-time All-Stars. If you set the minimum number of starts at 20, this is the fifth time a team has had five All-Stars in its rotation. The last was the 2000 Atlanta Braves (Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Kevin Millwood, John Burkett and Terry Mulholland). The other teams include the 1973 Los Angeles Dodgers (Andy Messersmith, Claude Osteen, Don Sutton, Tommy John and Al Downing); the 1972 Dodgers (Osteen, Sutton, Downing, John and Bill Singer); and the 1968 Cleveland Indians (Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, Sonny Siebert, Steve Hargan and Stan Williams).

Carlos Zambrano made his first All-Star appearance last year, and Wood and Prior were both on the National League team in 2003. Maddux is an eight-time All-Star, and Ryan Dempster was named to the NL team in 2000.

Minor matters: Bobby Brownlie gave up one run on three hits over six innings for Triple-A Iowa in a 2-1 win over Round Rock. Will Ohman picked up the win in relief. Ronny Cedeno was 1-for-3 with a solo home run. ... Double-A West Tenn split a doubleheader on Tuesday. Starting pitcher Jae Kuk Ryu threw five scoreless innings in the first game, an 8-1 win, and Felix Pie went 3-for-4 with a solo homer in the second game, a 7-4 loss. ... The Class A Peoria Chiefs lost their home opener Tuesday to Clinton, 6-4. Luis Montanez was 3-for-4 with a double.

Extra bases: Dempster did take advantage of Tuesday's rainout and was able to purchase new dishes and pots. "It was a very domestic day," he said. ... Zambrano will open the Cubs' series at Pittsburgh on Friday. Zambrano was 5-0 against the Pirates last year. Maddux will start on Saturday and Dempster on Sunday. The upcoming road trip is a seven-game, three-city journey against Central Division rivals. ... The Cubs were 0-1 with two splits in three doubleheaders last year.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.