"It's different because I had success last year and I was able to go out and help the team win," Hill said, comparing this Spring Training to one year ago. "Any time you can do that and contribute, it is easier. But at the same time, we have a new staff, a new manager in Lou, and you still have to go out there and prove yourself.
"As I've been saying all along, it's a game of what have you done for me lately," he said. "As long as you never lose that, that sense of reality, then you always have to go out there and do that and do it over and over again and continue to perform."
So, did Hill destroy the video tapes from his early starts of 2006? He was 0-4 with a 9.31 ERA before the All-Star break, and 3-1 with a 1.93 ERA in six September starts.
"I just haven't watched them," Hill said. "Sometimes, it's good to go back and look at where you came from and how far you've come. There may be a point where I say, let's watch a tape from '05 and see what my body language was like and make a comparison. You can use it as a tool, and a learning tool."
Hill believes you can learn from your struggles.
"Absolutely," he said. "Failure is a great teacher. If you can learn from your mistakes, you don't want to make the same mistake twice."
Hill is practically guaranteed a spot.
"I fully anticipate he'll be in our rotation," Piniella said. "And my son has got him on his fantasy team, so I can't mess that up."
Carlos Zambrano will start Opening Day, with lefty Ted Lilly expected to follow, and either Jason Marquis or possibly Mark Prior in the third spot.
"With the starting pitching, one good thing is we're deep enough and have enough options that we don't have to rush any decisions," Piniella said. "That's a pretty good situation to be in. We have a real nice combination of lefties and righties. Let these kids compete and they'll tell us where they want to be."
Arms race: Zambrano, Lilly, Marquis, Prior and Hill were among the 14 pitchers who threw Thursday, joining Wade Miller, Scott Eyre, Ryan Dempster, Bob Howry, Neal Cotts, Will Ohman, Michael Wuertz, Jeff Samardzija and Ryan O'Malley.
"I'm going to tell you who threw the ball well today was Cotts," Piniella said of the lefty acquired from the White Sox this winter. "He used all his pitches. He has a good slider, good breaking ball, good changeup. That's one of the reasons we're giving him a chance to start here is to make him use all his pitches. He has got a good arm."
Expect to see Cotts start a Cactus League game or two. Piniella also asked pitching coach Larry Rothschild to budget the four starters to get at least 26 innings this spring.
Kerry Wood, who threw on the side Wednesday, will face hitters over the weekend. Friday's forecast called for rain, so Piniella didn't want to say for sure when the right-hander would throw.
"He's ready to go," Piniella said of Wood.
Fresh start: Piniella is doing his best to avoid rehashing the Cubs' 96-loss season of 2006. He wasn't part of it; he was working for FOX TV as a broadcaster then.
"I'm not aware of what happened here -- I had it written over here," he said, pausing to find something he had scribbled on the calendar on his desk.
"Basically, it was a little note, just forget about last year," he said. "Talk about now and into the future."
Extra bases: Tickets go on sale Friday at Wrigley Field and online. Go to the tickets section at Cubs.com for more information. ... The Cubs will not play an intrasquad game this spring. Instead, they will move to HoHoKam Park after Tuesday's workout at Fitch Park. ... Ryan Theriot is busy during infield drills. Theriot is taking grounders at third, short and second. The Cubs like the idea of versatility. Angel Pagan is impressing the staff because he can play all three outfield positions. ... Mark DeRosa showed his athletic ability when he made a leaping catch during drills. ... Micah Hoffpauir joined the Cubs big-league camp Thursday. Hoffpauir batted .268 with 10 homers and 31 RBIs in 40 games at Double-A West Tenn and hit .267 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs in 77 games at Triple-A Iowa last season. He was added because non-roster invitee Mike Kinkade is still recovering from offseason knee surgery, and the Cubs wanted an extra first baseman in camp. ... Darryl Hamilton, senior specialist of onfield operations for Major League Baseball, met with the Cubs staff Thursday to discuss the rule changes. ... Teams are allowed to use the designated hitter in National League parks this spring. Piniella has heard from some teams, requesting to do so. "Maybe it's because we have good-hitting pitching," Piniella said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less