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Notes: Marquis to start Cactus opener

Notes: Marquis to start Cactus opener

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MESA, Ariz. -- Jason Marquis will make his Cubs debut Thursday when he starts in the Cactus League opener against the San Francisco Giants.

Marquis, one of the free agents added this offseason, was missing from practice Friday because he was sick, but pitching coach Larry Rothschild said the right-hander will lead things off. Why Marquis?

"It just fits, schedule-wise," Rothschild said.

Expect the starting pitchers to go at least two innings in their first turn, and six to seven pitchers could see action in the first few games. Starters will get five days between games, so Marquis is slated to start March 1 and again March 6, and so on.

The only starter who will miss the first turn will be lefty Sean Marshall, who has been making progress in his side sessions as he builds up his shoulder.

Kerry Wood, now in the mix with the relievers, also was expected to be ready when Cactus League play begins, but probably won't get in a game until after the first two contests. Wood will throw batting practice Saturday, Rothschild said.

"He won't be far off," Rothschild said of Wood. "Right now, everybody is pretty much on schedule."

As for the specific rotation order, neither Rothschild nor manager Lou Piniella would say where guys will line up. Not yet, at least.

"I think we'll let these guys compete," Piniella said. "They'll tell us where they belong in the rotation."

The Cubs are eager to get the games under way.

"That's when you can start evaluating," Piniella said. "Right now, all you're doing is getting people in shape. When the games start, the competition starts in earnest."

New guy in town: Daryle Ward is still in the getting-to-know-you phase of Spring Training as he tries to put names and faces together on the Cubs.

"Once you get that out of the way, it gets a little easier and you can let your personality out when you get comfortable with guys," Ward said.

Not that he'll insist on being the center of attention.

"I've always been a shy type of guy -- not to the extreme," he said. "I'm not a guy who will come jumping out at everyone."

Ward's locker is near Ryan Dempster, who is one of the most congenial guys on the team.

"He'll get me talking -- he'll keep me from being too quiet," Ward said.

Ward will primarily be used as a backup first baseman, left-handed bat off the bench, and maybe in the outfield. When the Cubs play at American League parks, Ward will get some at-bats as the designated hitter. It doesn't matter to Ward, who played 10 games in right, four at first base, and two in left last season.

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"In the outfield, I have to put in some extra work," he said. "It's been awhile since I've been out there. I have the confidence to play it. I'm not one of the fastest guys out there. I do a pretty good job cutting off balls in the gap.

"The concentration is part is a little different than first base," he said. "At first base, you don't have to think so much because there's a lot of action, so it's more reaction. The balls are hit and they get to you real quick. You don't have time to think of a scenario of what you're going to do. Outfield is more of a thinking game. You can see things developing out there."

Ward got a scouting report on Piniella from his father, Gary Ward, who played for him in 1987-88 when he was an outfielder with the New York Yankees.

"He loves him," Daryle said of his father's feelings about Piniella. "He said he was the best manager he ever had."

New guy, part II: Piniella knows how long it's been since the Cubs won a World Series, but apparently was unfamiliar with the intensity of the rivalry between the Cubs and crosstown White Sox. The two teams meet twice this spring, including March 4 at HoHoKam Stadium.

"I remember when I was with the Yankees, we had to beat the Mets," Piniella said. "I never thought about that [Cubs vs. White Sox rivalry]. I better circle that game on my calendar here."

The two teams also will meet in Tucson on March 16.

Good wood: Alfonso Soriano does not have a bat contract with any one company but he does have a favorite bat. Soriano has used maple Sam Bats his entire career, and this year, he has a few Zinger models in his locker to test.

It doesn't take much for Soriano to know if he's picked the right bat.

"I grab a bat, and if it feels comfortable, I use it," he said. "I don't think about if that bat is good, the other one is not good. I think they make all the bats good."

Job fair: How easy was it for Piniella to figure out of Alan Trammell was a good fit as a bench coach?

"I called him, and asked him if he had an interest in being the bench coach here and he said yes," Piniella said. "We talked for about three, four minutes, and I said, 'Fine.' I said, 'The general manager will be calling you tomorrow and if he feels the same, you're hired.' [Trammell] said, 'Where do I need to fly?' I said, 'You don't need to fly anywhere.'

"Every coach we hired here was one conversation," Piniella said. "We made our decisions internally and when we talked to the particular coach, he was hired."

Spring drills have run smoothly so far. Piniella said he gave the staff a blueprint for what he wanted to accomplish, and they go over some fundamental every day.

"I'm really pleased," he said. "What I'm pleased about more than anything else is we've had no injuries here. We've had to hold a few of them back a little bit, but it's a daily thing and they're ready to go the next day."

Project 3000: You will be able to purchase a wristband at the Cubs' first three games at HoHoKam Stadium to support Derrek Lee's Project 3000. They will be on sale March 1-2 and March 4 on the concourse along the first-base side. The bands, which have "Project 3000" and "Believe the Unseen" on them, are available for a $5 donation, and 100 percent of the proceeds go toward Project 3000.

Project 3000 is an effort to raise money for research to fight Lebers Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), which Lee's daughter Jada has. LCA is a rare disease that causes severe vision loss or blindness. Anyone interested in helping Lee's efforts should go to www.1stTouch.org or www.project3000.org for more information.

Lee was absent from Cubs camp Friday. Piniella said the first baseman had gone back to Sacramento, Calif., to be with his family and attend a function regarding his daughter. Everything is fine, Piniella said.

Extra bases: Last spring, teams were allowed to use the designated hitter in National League parks during Cactus League play. Piniella said he'll stick with an NL lineup. "Can you imagine me telling [Carlos] Zambrano he's not going to get some at-bats?" Piniella said. ... The Cubs will likely make their first roster cuts after the March 9 split-squad games. ... Among the 12 pitchers who threw to hitters Friday were Angel Guzman, Carlos Marmol, Juan Mateo, Sean Gallagher, Clay Rapada and Randy Wells. ... The rain and cold weather prompted the Cubs to cut Friday's workout short by a half hour.

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

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{"content":["spring_training" ] }
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