Players respect Piniella's decision

Players respect Piniella's decision

CHICAGO -- Cubs players were not surprised by Lou Piniella's announcement Tuesday that he will retire at the end of this season and know it doesn't change what they have to do.

"We've been trying hard and playing every day," first baseman Derrek Lee said. "We come out here every day to win ballgames. It would be great to come out here and send him out on a good note."

Piniella, 66, announced he's leaving at the end of the season because he wants to spend more time with his family. The players understood that.

"It's his idea and everybody supports him," left fielder Alfonso Soriano said.

Piniella wanted to tell his coaches and players first but the news leaked when his agent told a New York sportswriter. Instead of a 4 p.m. CT news conference, the Cubs issued a statement two hours earlier.

"The timing of today caught me off guard," Lee said, "but like I said, he's had a great career and his contract is up at the end of the year, so it's probably good timing on his part. I didn't expect coming to the park today it would be today. He's given a lot of time to this game, so he deserves to do whatever he wants to."

What impresses Lee the most about Piniella?

"His desire to win," Lee said. "He doesn't like losing. He shows up every day to win a ballgame and you can really appreciate that."

And that's the attitude Piniella wants the Cubs to have for the remainder of the season. There are 67 games to go, and the season isn't over yet.

"Lou stressed that to us today -- his job doesn't change," Lee said. "He still comes with the same desire to win every day. We knew this was a possibility. It's not going to change our mindset at all.

"[The season] isn't over yet," Lee said. "If we end like this, we let him down and ourselves down, more importantly."

Piniella did not hesitate to play the young players who were called up, such as Geovany Soto, who joined the big league team in September 2007 and started two of three games in the National League Division Series.

"It was a great experience," said Soto, who won National League Rookie of the Year in 2008. "[After the season,] I told him thanks for giving me the confidence to play and see what I can do in the big leagues. He's the first manager to give me the opportunity. I thanked him and he said, 'You deserved it.' I really appreciate what he did for me."

This year, Piniella has shown faith in rookies Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro, as well as young pitchers Andrew Cashner, James Russell, Justin Berg, among others.

"It's been great [to play for Piniella]," Colvin said. "Whoever's hot and whoever is playing well, you're in there and when you're in there, you want to play hard for him."

Lee said he hasn't seen many changes in Piniella over the 3 1/2 seasons in Chicago.

"He's pretty much the same Lou," Lee said. "He might be a little calmer this year than the first two years. He's managed the same way -- no changes."

It will be business as usual for the final two-plus months.

"He's spent 17 years as a player and how many more managing, coaching? He's 66 years old," Soto said. "It's been a long journey. He's well entitled to take it to the house. He's paid his dues."

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