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Notes: Zambrano, Marquis throw

Notes: Zambrano, Marquis throw

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MESA, Ariz. -- Jason Marquis and Carlos Zambrano, who will start the first two games of Cactus League play for the Cubs, both threw to hitters Saturday.

Marquis, who will start Thursday against the San Francisco Giants, was on the mound after missing one day because he was feeling ill. Zambrano was expected to start Friday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Both games will be played at HoHoKam Stadium.

So far, so good, Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Saturday.

"My job really starts when the games start with the evaluation process and how to utilize the kids," Piniella said. "I've been pleased. The only thing I mentioned to the pitching coach [Larry Rothschild], and it's early in camp, but I'd like to see our pitchers throw more strikes with the fastball. Outside of that, I'm pleased. Everybody's working and in shape. We haven't had any setbacks injury-wise, and that's very important."

Among the other pitchers who threw was Wade Miller, who is competing for a spot in the rotation. Piniella said he told pitching coach Larry Rothschild and the medical staff not to push the players who are coming off injuries. Miller fits that category after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in September 2005. He was able to start five games last September for the Cubs.

"Wade doesn't have the arm strength that Kerry [Wood] and the rest of these guys have, obviously," Piniella said. "He's got good rotation in his breaking ball and he's spotting his fastball very well. Velocity is not the name of the game with Wade. It's more changing speeds and utilizing pitches and hitting his spots."

Go Irish: Jeff Samardzija, the former Notre Dame wide receiver who signed a Major League deal with the Cubs, also threw to hitters on Saturday, the second time he's done so this spring.

Expect to see the right-hander in Cactus League play.

"He's got one of the better arms in camp," Piniella said. "His ball comes out of his hand really easy and it has got some good life to it."

Samardzija signed a five-year, $10 million deal with the Cubs. Is he on the fast track to the big leagues?

"I think when he was signed, our top scouts felt -- assuming he stays healthy and progresses the way they anticipate -- in two years time, he could be right here in Wrigley," Piniella said. "Obviously he has the physical attributes. Plus, he's an intelligent kid and Larry has talked to him about minor adjustments in his delivery and he has picked them up well."

Music man: One of the things Piniella inherited at Fitch Park was a CD player attached to the wall of the manager's office. Dusty Baker had it installed.

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"They told me that Dusty loved music," Piniella said. "I would've never known it was a CD player. I said, 'Maybe [team president] John McDonough will be voicing some positive tones or vibes.'"

Piniella likes music, but isn't quite up to date on the latest acts.

"To me, chili peppers is something you put in a dish," he said, referring to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

What about a celebrity turn on Dancing with the Stars?

"It'd be funny," Piniella said. "I don't dance very well, no, much to the chagrin of my wife. She loves to dance and I'm not very good at it. She married me, what can I say?"

Numbers game: How important would it be for Mark Prior and Kerry Wood to be healthy and on the roster at the same time? Either Prior or Wood have been on the disabled list for 430 of the 859 in-season days since Prior was recalled, May 22, 2002. That's 50.1 percent. Both of them have been on the DL at the same time for 176 days.

History lesson: Piniella is one of three managers with 1,500 wins and 1,500 hits. He has won 1,519 games, and collected 1,705 hits in his career. Fred Clarke won 1,602 games and totaled 2,672 hits, and Joe Torre has won 1,973 games heading into this season and totaled 2,342 hits in his career.

Did anyone influence Piniella?

"I learned from all of them," he said. "Not only do you learn from all of them but you learn from your contemporaries just as much. And you watch. You watch the 30 guys who are doing it now.

"There's a reason why Bobby Cox wins in Atlanta, there's a reason why Tony La Russa wins, there's a reason why Joe Torre wins," he said. "Yes, there's talent but at the same time, they're handling their clubs a certain way to extract talent from it. You take a look. You have to."

Extra bases: Derrek Lee rejoined the Cubs on Saturday. He had returned to Sacramento to attend an event at his daughter Jada's school. It was a father-daughter function, and Lee said he promised he would be there. ... The Cubs will not play an intrasquad game, but will move to HoHoKam Park after Tuesday's workout. ... Ronny Cedeno worked out at second base Saturday.

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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