Notes: Neck spasms delay Lee

Notes: Neck spasms delay Lee

NEw YORK -- Derrek Lee, bothered by neck spasms, did not rejoin the Cubs on Tuesday, instead staying in Chicago because doctors did not think the first baseman was ready to travel.

"He hasn't gotten any worse," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Tuesday, "but he hasn't gotten any better. It might be a few days."

Whether Lee, the National League's leading hitter with a .390 average, will fly to New York on Wednesday has yet to be determined. The Cubs play the Mets on Wednesday and Thursday before returning home for a weekend Interleague series against the Chicago White Sox on Friday.

"I would say it's 50-50," Piniella said. "Obviously, if he doesn't come [Wednesday], we'll wait until Friday against the White Sox. I know Derrek Lee, and if he can be here, believe me, he'll be here.

"This guy's a gamer and he loves to play baseball," Piniella said of the Cubs first baseman. "If it were up to him, I know he'd be on a plane. I think prudence is the best direction, and that's what the doctors have suggested."

Second baseman Mark DeRosa was at Shea Stadium but has a strained right ring finger after a freak collision Monday on the basepaths with New York's Endy Chavez.

"It's day to day," DeRosa said. "I strained a tendon or ligament or whatever in my right ring finger, and it makes it difficult to hold the bat right now and swing with any authority.

"It's definitely a lot better than I thought it was going to be. It feels all right, so hopefully we can blow them out [Tuesday night] and keep me out of the game and everything is hunky-dory. I think that's the plan right now."

He did not undergo an MRI, saying, "It's not even worth taking a MRI on."

"If we're in a pinch, I'll go in," DeRosa said. "No problem."

DeRosa did take grounders before Tuesday's game.

"Holding the bat is a problem," he said. "Swinging, making contact. A 90 mile-an-hour fastball might not be the ideal situation for it. I can definitely gut it out."

The collision was partly a result of DeRosa's inexperience at first base.

"You play there once a year, or once every two years, and you try to hang in there as much as you can," he said. "I'm just thankful it was Endy Chavez and not [Carlos] Delgado or some big guy coming down the line who could've done a little more damage. I got lucky in that respect. Next time, I'll get out of the way and let that ball go into right field."

Roster move: Infielder Mike Fontenot was activated and pitcher Rocky Cherry was optioned to Triple-A Iowa minutes before Tuesday's game. Without Lee and DeRosa, the Cubs were shorthanded, and Piniella wanted an extra infielder. Cherry was 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA in eight games, giving up three runs on eight hits over 9 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Fontenot, 26, was batting .364 with 10 doubles, three triples, six home runs and 27 RBIs for Iowa. He was named Pacific Coast League's Batter of the Week after collecting 18 hits in seven games and posting a 1.129 slugging percentage. Fontenot had six multihit games, highlighted by a 3-for-4 game May 10 when he hit two triples and drove in five runs against Fresno.

"Things have been going well, and I've been seeing the ball well," Fontenot said. "It feels good to go to the park every day, and we were winning a lot of ballgames, so it makes it a lot more fun."

Fontenot was playing second, short and third, and batting third most of the time for the Iowa Cubs. He was acquired from the Orioles on Feb. 2, 2005, in the Sammy Sosa deal.

Alfonso Soriano wasn't sure who Fontenot was. The 5-foot-8 infielder looks a lot like bullpen catcher Corey Miller.

"He came by and made a little comment," Fontenot said. "[Soriano] said, 'You look like a ballplayer, but are you the bat boy?'"

Kerry Wood was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day to make room for Fontenot on the 40-man roster.

Lineup: When Lee returns, he'll go back into the No. 3 spot in the Cubs lineup. Soriano started there for the second straight game Tuesday. The question is, will Soriano return to the leadoff spot? Piniella wouldn't provide a direct answer.

"All I said was D-Lee was going to hit third," Piniella said. "I didn't say anything else."

So, what happens to Soriano?

"Well, we're going to find out," Piniella said.

Ryan Theriot could lead off, and Soriano could be inserted into the No. 2 spot so the team can take advantage of both his speed and power. Soriano has been hitting a lot of doubles with nobody on base.

Arms race: The Cubs are keeping an eye on how Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol are doing at Iowa. They're looking for a few good arms for the bullpen.

"We're starting to look around to see where we can possibly do some things," Piniella said.

The problem is two-fold. The 'pen hasn't been able to hold leads consistently, and the Cubs haven't been able to score enough runs to give the relievers a little cushion.

"I mentioned [after Monday's game] that we thought [the 'pen] was one of our strengths coming into the season," Piniella said. "It just hasn't performed that way as of yet. If you want to call that frustration ... it's matter of fact.

"The two areas we've talked about over and over again were that and the fact that we need to tack on runs, and those are the two areas that have alluded us," Piniella said. "We're not playing poorly. We're just not winning close baseball games."

Extra bases: Wade Miller gave up three runs on seven hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings while striking out one in Double-A Tennessee's 6-4 win over Chattanooga. Miller, making his first rehab start, threw 86 pitches, 52 for strikes. Carlos Rojas hit a two-run double with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth for the win. Miller did not get a decision. ... Iowa Cub fans raised $7,912 for Lee's Project 3000 over the weekend. ... The Cubs will play the April 11 postponed game against Houston on June 11 at 7:05 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field. Tickets to the April 11 game are not valid for the makeup game.

Minor matters: Ryan O'Malley gave up six runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in Iowa's 12-2 loss to Sacramento. Felix Pie had two hits, including a first inning solo homer. ... Mark Holliman gave up five runs on nine hits over five innings in Tennessee's 7-1 loss to Chattanooga. It was Holliman's first loss of the season. Jake Fox hit a two-out solo homer in the first. ... Joel Santo gave up eight runs on 12 hits over five innings in Class A Daytona's 12-7 loss to the Devil Rays. Tyler Colvin had two hits and two RBIs. He leads Daytona with a .323 average, 30 RBIs, 14 doubles and a .512 slugging percentage.

On deck: Rich Hill will try to get back on track Wednesday in Game 3 of this four-game series against the Mets at Shea Stadium. The 6:10 p.m. CT game will be broadcast on Comcast Sports Net.

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