Notes: Pupil counsels teacher

Notes: Honored pupil counsels teacher

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux survived an ugly first inning Tuesday with a little help from his young catcher, Dennis Anderson.

Maddux walked the bases loaded with one out in the first against the Texas Rangers in an exhibition game at HoHoKam Park. Anderson, 28, who has not caught higher than Double-A, went out to the mound to talk to the veteran.

"He was trying to change it up a little bit, give me a breather," said Maddux, who did escape the jam.

Anderson is one of several young catchers in the Cubs camp taking advantage of the absence of Michael Barrett and Henry Blanco, who are playing in the World Baseball Classic.

"It's fun seeing somebody trying really hard," Maddux said of Anderson. "As a pitcher, you really appreciate the effort. The guy's doing everything in his power to help me out there. It's very gratifying.

"I was just wild," Maddux said. "It's better to be wild out of the strike zone than in it. It was nice to get out there and pitch again. I don't think anybody wants to walk the bases loaded, but they didn't score."

One would think Anderson might be intimidated having to catch a four-time Cy Young winner.

"I don't know why. I don't throw hard," Maddux said. "Maybe [Kerry Wood] or [Mark] Prior, but not me. I'm easy to catch."

Anderson, who signed with the Cubs as a Minor League free agent, had caught Maddux in a simulated game last week. He wasn't fazed.

"I remember baseball cards I collected of Greg when I was in Little League," Anderson said. "Now, to be in the same locker room and be catching him in a big league game is quite an honor -- and an accomplishment to have made it this far."

Anderson and the other young catchers, Jose Reyes, Jake Fox and Geovany Soto, are getting plenty of spring innings.

"These catchers are doing a great job, as far as blocking and how they set up and their game calling," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "They're learning quickly from Larry [Rothschild, pitching coach], they're learning quickly from catching these veterans.

"Ordinarily, they'd be in charge of catching kids their age and the young guys," Baker said. "Now they're on the fast learning curve. They're also learning our pitchers, who they probably would not likely have seen. They're also learning the other hitters in this league. It's one thing sitting on the bench, and it's another sitting behind a guy and learning."

Maddux also is having an influence on some of the other young players, such as first baseman Brian Dopirak, who is in his first big league camp.

"All these guys are just like me. They were a rookie at one time in their life," Dopirak said. "They treat me like I'm one of the guys. I look at Greg Maddux and saw him sitting over there and said, '[Man], that's Greg Maddux. That guy is going to be in the Hall of Fame.' Now I sit there and talk to him like a teammate. It's a reality check, and it's a great feeling at the same time."

Maddux has given Dopirak a few tips.

"I try to pick his brain as much as I can," Dopirak said. "Any chance I get, I try to talk to him."

"These guys are getting a chance to play that they wouldn't ordinarily have," Baker said of Dopirak and another young first baseman, Brandon Sing. "If nothing else, they're impressing us and everybody else who has seen them. In order to have a good team, in order to have a good organization, you have to be deep in certain positions."

Dopirak hit a mammoth home run on Monday that's probably still flying through Papago Park. It was the second homer this spring for the young first baseman, who has gotten more playing time in the big league camp while Derrek Lee plays for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

"It's been great -- the playing time, the opportunity to start a few games," Dopirak said. "I'm just enjoying myself and having a good time when I'm here."

Good wood: Wood's surgery Tuesday on his right knee went well, and he should be able to resume his shoulder rehab program, athletic trainer Mark O'Neal said.

Wood underwent a 20-minute procedure in Los Angeles. Dr. Lewis Yocum performed the operation.

"They went in there and cleaned the medial meniscus out, and they didn't find anything in there," O'Neal said. "They closed him up, and they'll try to get him back this afternoon."

Wood underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in late August and had been progressing well this spring. The knee surgery is a minor setback and will push him back about two weeks. He could resume his shoulder program as early as Wednesday.

"There's been no surprises," O'Neal said.

Mark Prior is still on schedule to face hitters on Thursday. How important are Spring Training starts?

"I've always felt the last one was kind of a waste," Maddux said. "The last Spring Training start, it's like, 'God, I hope no one hits one off my knee or foot,' because you feel like you're ready to go."

Aches and pains: Third baseman Aramis Ramirez is still undergoing treatment on his right ring finger, which was infected and forced him out of Monday's game. O'Neal said he didn't expect Ramirez to be sidelined more than a couple days.

"There's no miracle drug that will make that thing go away right away," Baker said. "We'll just play it day by day."

Third baseman Scott Moore needs to pass some tests before he can play. He suffered a laceration on the middle finger of his glove hand on Monday and required three stitches.

"I was just trying to break up the double play," Moore said. "[The second baseman] landed on my hand when he jumped over me.

"Hopefully, I'm only out a day or so," he said. "As long as I can move my finger, if it doesn't open up, I'm fine."

"He said, 'Hey, man, I'm a quick healer and I want to play as quick as I can,'" Baker said of Moore, whom the Cubs acquired in a trade with Detroit. "That's old-school attitude. He got some points from me because he wants to play. It shows he wants to play and he's a tough kid."

Jerry Hairston Jr., sidelined since he was hit in the head by a pitch on Sunday, was able to take some swings during batting practice Tuesday.

"He has no symptoms of any head injury, and we'll be aggressive with him," O'Neal said.

John Mabry made his Cubs debut, starting at first base on Tuesday. He had been sidelined with a sore back. In his first at-bat, Mabry hit a two-run double.

Lineup: Baker has said he doesn't want to put young shortstop Ronny Cedeno in the No. 2 spot in the lineup just yet. That could change.

"Maybe," Baker said. "It depends on how the other guys are doing, it depends on what I need. It depends on the bottom of the order. It's not definite. I'm always open-minded to changes."

Cedeno batted eighth on Tuesday, and is batting .250.

"I think he's pressing a little already," Baker said. "My concern is [the No. 2 spot] is a very accomplished hitter's spot. That's my concern. It's not out of the question. I never dreamed I'd be batting fifth my rookie year behind Hank Aaron. Nothing is out of the question. You have to start somewhere. I told him someday he'll be a very good second hitter."

World Baseball Classic bits: Carlos Zambrano gave up four runs on three hits and three walks over 2 2/3 innings while striking out two for Team Venezuela in the first round of the World Baseball Classic. Zambrano came on in relief of Johan Santana and gave up a three-run homer to Adrian Beltre. Zambrano threw 56 pitches in the outing.

The game was on the Cubs' clubhouse television, and it was clear who was rooting for whom. The Dominican players, such as Ramirez, Neifi Perez and Felix Pie, cheered loudly when their countryman, David Ortiz homered. The Dominicans won, 11-5.

"It is a little strange to be watching baseball that counts at this time of year," Baker said. "I know our guys are really excited."

Lee helped the U.S. team beat Mexico, 2-0, hitting a solo homer in the fourth inning.

Special assistants Randy Bush and Gary Hughes returned from Tokyo, where they were scouting the World Baseball Classic games.

"It was a very enlightening trip," Bush said. "If other teams get as excited about it as they were over there, this World Baseball thing will be something. The last game, when Japan played Korea, there were 45,000 people, and it was a tremendous game and there was a lot of emotion. It gave you a taste of what this could be if this catches on."

Next up: The Cubs play host to San Diego on Wednesday at HoHoKam Park. Left-hander Glendon Rusch will make his second spring start against the Padres' Woody Williams.

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