Notes: Soriano wills way into lineup

Notes: Soriano wills way into lineup

MESA, Ariz. -- Alfonso Soriano was not in the Cubs starting lineup on Wednesday against his former team, the Texas Rangers, but he apparently didn't have any plans and asked manager Lou Piniella if he could play.

"I wanted to give him the day off, and he wanted to play, and when he wants to play, he'll play -- what can I say?" Piniella said.

The original lineup had Jacque Jones in center, Cliff Floyd in left and Matt Murton in right. Two of the three would've been out of their regular positions.

"I was a little concerned about the [original] alignment," Piniella said. "I didn't fight it too much."

"I feel great, and I'm not tired or anything," said Soriano, who started in center and went 1-for-4 with a stolen base. "I played with those guys, and it's a good feeling to see those guys. And we're home. If we're on the road, I'll take it [off]. Here at home, I feel comfortable. I didn't want to do anything at home, [away from the ballpark]. Let me play to feel more comfortable in center field."

Soriano must have been caught up on his laundry.

"I woke up this morning with a lot of energy, and I wasn't tired," Soriano said. "I didn't have anything to do with a day off. I didn't want to do anything at home. I said, 'Let's play.'"

Piniella liked the work ethic.

"Isn't that nice for a superstar player like that to come and say, 'I want to get some work, I want to get some at-bats,' and he wanted to play against Texas," Piniella said. "That's good to see."

Soriano will get Thursday off instead and not make the trip to Peoria, Ariz., when the Cubs face the San Diego Padres.

Numbers game: It was weird to see a Cubs player wearing No. 21 while facing Sammy Sosa, who now wears No. 21 for the Texas Rangers.

"Not for me," said pitcher Jason Marquis, who faced Sosa on Wednesday, and is the first Cubs player to wear No. 21 since the outfielder was traded after the 2004 season.

"I've worn 21 all my life," Marquis said. "It's normal for me. It's just a number for me."

Sosa was asked if the Cubs should retire his number. He's the team's all-time home run leader, and he clubbed 60-plus homers in three seasons, winning the National League MVP Award in 1998.

"It's not my call," Sosa said. "You've got to ask their president, [John McDonough]. It's his call, whatever they decide to do."

Marquis would like to keep No. 21.

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"I'm not a believer in retired numbers," Marquis said. "You look 15 years down the road, how many numbers will be left for guys to wear? I think there should be other ways to honor players than retire their numbers. Growing up as kids, you idolize certain guys and you want to wear their numbers."

Maybe the number is your birthday, maybe you're a fan of Ernie Banks.

"It's a way to honor players," Marquis said. "Who's to say this guy isn't the next Mickey Mantle, the next Roger Clemens, the next Greg Maddux?"

As for Marquis, he gave up five runs on nine hits and three walks over five innings and did not get a decision in the Cubs' 11-7 win over the Rangers, which was capped by Daryle Ward's ninth-inning grand slam.

"I thought I made some quality pitches and have to just keep working," Marquis said. "I feel good where I'm at. I've got two starts left to fine-tune for the regular season."

In and out: Mark DeRosa started at third base on Wednesday. He's played more games there than anywhere else in his career. The Cubs want to make sure that they have someone to back up Aramis Ramirez if needed. So far, Ryan Theriot has looked better at second base than he has at third.

"That's part of this last week of moving around and seeing what people can do," Piniella said.

The Cubs are expected to carry 12 pitchers, and they're still debating whether to carry an extra infielder or outfielder.

"I've been very comfortable seeing progress that [Ronny] Cedeno has made in camp," Piniella said. "He's worked hard -- we've asked him to do things both offensively and defensively, and he's responded.

"Like I told [general manager] Jim [Hendry] this morning, I don't really think we need to go out and do anything unless he really thinks we can improve our team," Piniella said. "I'm comfortable with what we have here, and we can make it work with what we have here and leave here with a good baseball team and all the components in place."

Get physical: Cubs strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss will have a special project once the season starts: Piniella.

Once the Cubs leave the heat of Arizona, Piniella wants to start an exercise program. Three days a week, he'll lift weights, do some stretching exercises, some cardiovascular and pilates.

"I'm willing right now as we speak on March 21," Piniella said. "Let's hope April 2 that I'm ready."

Piniella and Pilates?

"I've done Pilates," he said. "Don't ask me to explain what they are."

Good cause: Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to Friday's game at HoHoKam Park for the 10th annual food drive to benefit Paz de Cristo. The food drive, organized by the Cubs' wives, will take place outside Gate D starting at 10:30 a.m. MT. The first 300 fans making a donation of 10 non-perishable food items or $20 will be allowed to randomly select a Cubs autographed baseball in a grab bag giveaway.

Extra bases: Derrek Lee, who missed most of last season with a fractured wrist, had two hits on Wednesday and was batting .512 this spring. There's no doubt that Lee's wrist is strong. "I knew it was fine, but it's nice to come out here and get all these at-bats and have it still be fine," Lee said. "It's encouraging." ... The Cubs optioned pitchers Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol to Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday. The roster is now at 36. ... Coach Matt Sinatro and catcher Michael Barrett had an early morning workout session on Wednesday. "I've liked what I've seen," Piniella said. "He's an intense kid, and occasionally, he fights himself back there. He works hard, he wants to do well, he wants to improve. I think he's done a really nice job of handling the pitching staff and catching." ... Felix Pie pinch-hit for Rocky Cherry in the sixth inning on Wednesday, so the box score will read "Cherry Pie." ... Condolences to Theriot, whose great uncle Homer Stewart passed away recently. Stewart, 87, served in the Navy and was a Pearl Harbor survivor.

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