Notes: Lee returns to Cubs

Notes: Lee returns to Cubs

MESA, Ariz. -- Derrek Lee rejoined the Chicago Cubs on Monday, eager to get back to work after spending the weekend in California to deal with a family emergency.

As Lee was headed to the Cubs game last Friday, he got a call that his grandfather had to be hospitalized because of his heart. Lee then headed home.

"Obviously, your thoughts and concerns are with your family, but you have to try to do your best to focus once the games start," said Lee, who went 0-for-3 Monday against the Chicago White Sox. "It'll be a little iffy the next couple weeks. I'll try to focus as best I can."

It hasn't been the smoothest spring. Lee left the team to play in the World Baseball Classic, then injured his left shoulder in the tournament. He returned last Thursday, but then his grandfather became ill. There's also the matter of a possible contract extension. Lee doesn't want to talk about that during the season.

"My shoulder is fine, the contract I don't worry about -- and my grandfather and my family, that's in my thoughts," Lee said. "Sometimes the game is the best thing for you because you can take your mind off things. I'm looking forward to playing."

Lee could go to the Minor League camp for at-bats, but Cubs manager Dusty Baker wants to make sure he gets time at first base, too.

"Hopefully, I can just pick up where I left off," said Lee, the defending National League batting champion. "Hopefully, I can find that groove in the last week."

Arms race: Kerry Wood threw 60 pitches Sunday off the mound, doing three intervals of 20 pitches each. Wood is rehabbing from arthroscopic shoulder surgery he had in late August.

"Right now, we'll see how he recovers [Tuesday] and the next day," Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "Then I'll decide what we'll do after that. Before he's going to face hitters, I want to cut down the recovery time in-between and make sure he can do a little more in-between and then work it up to hitters."

Wade Miller, who had similar surgery as Wood but in late September, threw 20 pitches off the mound on Monday and continues to make progress. Both Wood and Miller will accompany the team to Las Vegas this weekend for the final exhibition games.

Final countdown: Baker said he will likely go with 11 pitchers on Opening Day -- four starters and seven relievers. One of those seven could be a potential fifth starter, who isn't needed until April 15.

"We'll take it to the end before we make our decision on who's throwing the best and what we need," Baker said.

The starters are Carlos Zambrano, Glendon Rusch, Greg Maddux and Jerome Williams. The pitchers guaranteed a spot in the 'pen are Ryan Dempster, Scott Eyre and Bob Howry. The rest will be determined.

The Cubs also have to make a decision on the bench players. Veteran Marquis Grissom is in that mix. He was batting .200 in 18 games.

"These are important days," Baker said of Grissom going into the final week. "I'm sure when you get to this point in your career, you consider all possibilities. We'll try to give him as much playing time as possible without slighting anybody else. I'm sure he's doing some evaluation and assessment of his own abilities."

Grissom, 38, batted .212 last season with the Giants before he was released. He battled a tender hamstring, and has yet to really test it this spring. Grissom said playing nine innings Monday was a good test, but he won't know whether he passed until Tuesday. That's when aches and pains tend to kick in.

"I think I'm evaluating myself more than they are," Grissom said. "I'm taking it day-to-day and making sure I'm capable of getting myself ready and prepared to play every day. I told them any indication I can't do that, it'll be that time again. I'm feeling pretty good right now. I'll try to make it to Thursday and see what happens."

Grissom said he's passed all the physical tests.

"It's more a mental aspect for me," he said. "Do I want to do it? I told Dusty that. Do I want to put the work in every day, every morning? That's what it boils down to. If I get tired of doing the work, then it's time to go home.

"When I stop having fun, I'll know it's time to go," he said. "Right now, I'm going to hang on and I'm looking forward to a whole season, 162 ballgames. That's what I'm looking forward to."

Second to none: Who will start at second on Opening Day? Baker has an idea, but isn't telling. He plans on sitting down with Jerry Hairston Jr., Todd Walker and Neifi Perez this week.

"I was talking to [Bob Brenly] about a similar situation they had with [Craig] Counsell in Arizona," Baker said. "I know everybody wants a definitive answer, but there might not be one.

"We have plenty [of options] right now. You hope it remains plenty," Baker said. "You never know what's going to happen. Right now, we'll go with the best per day."

It won't be a pure left-right platoon, but based more on matchups.

"I'll talk to them all together and come up with something before we leave from here," Baker said. "This is a team thing. It's not an individual thing. That's how I'll treat it, as a team thing."

Brotherly love: Hairston's younger brother, Scott, is an outfielder on the Diamondbacks and gave this scouting report on his sibling:

"He's a very dedicated player and he knows his role and he does it," Scott Hairston said. "He works from his heart. He loves the game, has passion for it. His type of personality is very fitting for the Cubs."

How so?

"You have a lot of guys on this team like him and Neifi Perez who are really loose," Scott said. "You've got a manager like Dusty Baker who's really nice and a player's manager. He's a guy you can go up and talk to and joke around with. Jerry's a happy, go-lucky type of person. I'm really happy for him and he should do well."

Jerry is four years older than Scott.

"He had a big influence on me growing up," Scott said of his big brother. "I saw him in high school, went to all his games. He was a really positive influence on me. I learned from him, learned from his mistakes -- you play this game and you're going to make mistakes. I was able to ask a lot of questions. That helped me a lot. I was fortunate to have a brother to follow and to have a dad who played the game, too. Hopefully we'll play a lot of years against each other."

Final Four: Here's some NCAA hoops Final Four trivia: Eight current and former Cubs attended LSU, seven went to UCLA, two to Florida and none to George Mason. Walker and Ryan Theriot both attended LSU, as did Bubba Church, Al Dark, Mike Fontenot, Mark Freeman, Mark Guthrie, and Bill Lee. The UCLA alum include Bill Bonham, Frank Ernaga, Mike Fyhrie, Eric Karros, Matt Keough, Bob Scanlan and Todd Zeile. Lance Richbourg and Casey Wise went to Florida.

Extra bases: Greg Maddux gave up three runs on nine hits over six innings Monday against the White Sox. "I felt like I could've gone one more, but at the same time I felt I was ready," said Maddux, who threw 80 pitches. "It's good that you can throw close to 100 pitches by Opening Day." Maddux will pitch in one of the Cubs games this weekend in his hometown of Las Vegas. ... Monday's game drew a HoHoKam Park record crowd of 12,894. The old mark was 12,892, set March 11, 2005, against Arizona. ... The Cubs weren't happy the game ended at 4-4. "You hate to end in a tie," Baker said. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen told Baker in the ninth that they didn't have enough pitching. ... Roberto Novoa is close to pitching in a game. He's been sidelined since March 5 with a respiratory infection. "You know he's feeling better because he's eating everything in the locker room again and he's talking a lot," Baker said of the right-hander. "When he's doing those two things, he's back to himself." ... Outfielder Angel Pagan will be named the winner of the fourth Ron Santo/Billy Williams Rookie of the Spring award on Tuesday. Pagan was batting .367 this spring.

On deck: The Cubs travel to Peoria on Tuesday to play the Seattle Mariners at 2:05 p.m. CT. Left-hander Glendon Rusch, penciled in as the April 5 starter vs. Cincinnati, is scheduled to start for Chicago against Felix Hernandez.

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