Notes: Piniella preaches fun during funk

Notes: Piniella preaches fun

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Lou Piniella chose to give his players a pep talk after Monday's game rather than meet with the media. The team had just lost its second straight extra-inning game, and dropped to 0-8 in games decided by one or two runs.

"I told them, basically, this has to be fun," Piniella said Tuesday. "If I put too many expectations on them as a manager, I apologize. Relax and play. You're going to get a paycheck if you win or lose, your wife's going to love you, the dog's going to bark when you come home.

"Go out there and relax and play. I like the kids we have here. We've got a good group of men. We've got to get over the hump and get these games that are getting away from us."

Piniella has skipped postgame media sessions before when he managed in Seattle.

"It was late," Piniella said about Monday. "And you know what? I was tired. I was tired, I really was. It was a tough loss. You look at the losses we have here: we lost 4-3 in 14 innings, we lost 2-1, we lost 1-0. Last night, we lost 5-4. Look at the last four losses. You've got to win close games to have a good team. That's as obvious as obvious can be. It's not like we're getting beat 9-1, 7-1. Actually, a 9-1 loss is easier than a 14-inning, 4-3 loss."

Part of the problem is the setup. Piniella would prefer to talk in his office, on his turf, but instead is shuttled into an interview room.

"It's much easier [in his office] than me sitting here as a guy who has to have all the answers, and be charming and gracious and be knowledgeable and be calm and cool and collected," he said. "If I had all those qualities, I'd be a psychologist and not a Major League manager."

Told that he was missed after Monday's game, Piniella quipped: "I [missed you], too. I missed you all like a toothache."

Voice of the Cubs: WGN Radio broadcaster Ron Santo was released from the hospital Tuesday and will recuperate at home. All reports were that Santo was feeling good.

Santo, 67, was hospitalized Saturday after experiencing an irregular heart beat. This is his 18th season in the broadcast booth for WGN Radio. Former Cubs pitcher Dave Otto is subbing, and will cover for Santo in St. Louis this weekend, and may go to Pittsburgh. Santo will skip the trip.

Scorecard: Piniella has been using several different lineup combinations in an effort to learn his players. He said he will likely stick with Tuesday's lineup. It featured left fielder Alfonso Soriano leading off, followed by Felix Pie in center, first baseman Derrek Lee, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, catcher Michael Barrett, right fielder Jacque Jones, second baseman Mark DeRosa and shortstop Cesar Izturis.

"I've had a chance over three weeks to look at our team and actually learn it," Piniella said. "You can go through six weeks of Spring Training but, boy, when you get the season started and you play for real ... you learn a lot more about a team when you lose than when you win.

"I like the talent on this team. I don't think we've played any team of the seven that's more talented than us. We've played a lot of different combinations of players. Everybody's gotten at-bats, everybody's pitched. That's how I learn the players."

After 19 games, Piniella has a feel for the players.

"What you're going to see is we're going to get very constant in our lineup," he said.

Extra bases: Pie switched from No. 17 to No. 20 because it's special for him. "I've had that number my whole career," he said. ... Angel Guzman is expected to fill the fifth starter spot May 1 against Pittsburgh. ... Before Rocky Cherry, the last Cubs pitcher to pick up a loss in relief in his Major League debut was Danny Young on March 30, 2000, as the Mets beat the Cubs, 5-1, in Japan. Before Young, the last one was Greg Maddux on Sept. 2, 1986. ... Cherry, by the way, is the Cubs' third player from the 2002 draft to play for the team, joining Rich Hill and Adam Greenberg. Cherry is the 154th player to be drafted, signed and play for the Cubs. ... Left-hander Sean Marshall, who has been pitching in extended Spring Training in Mesa, Ariz., will start either Wednesday or Thursday for Class A Daytona. He will likely make two starts for Daytona, then move up to Triple-A Iowa.

Minor matters: Les Walrond gave up four runs on nine hits over six innings in Iowa's 5-1 loss to Nashville on Monday. ... Jake Fox had four hits and one RBI in Double-A Tennessee's 8-5 loss to Mobile. Fox is batting .474 (9-for-19) when he's playing first base. Sam Fuld had three hits. ... Daytona scored nine runs on 12 hits in a 9-5 win over Palm Beach. Mitch Atkins gave up two runs on five hits over five innings for the win. Robinson Chirinos homered. ... Class A Peoria blew a 4-0 lead and lost, 6-4, to Kane County. Jacob Renshaw gave up two runs, one earned, on four hits over four innings.

On deck: Ted Lilly will close the Cubs' series against the Brewers on Wednesday at 1:20 p.m. CT, facing right-hander Ben Sheets. Lilly has pitched well but doesn't have the wins to show for it. Lilly ranks second in the National League in strikeouts with 30.

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