"When you manage a team, everybody's a manager -- what can I tell you?" Piniella said Thursday. "The only thing is, people who write [criticism] have a chance to write it after the fact, and not during."
Piniella's plan coming into Game 1 against the Arizona Diamondbacks was to have Zambrano go six innings or throw 100 pitches. The six innings came first, and Big Z exited with the game tied at 1 having thrown 85 pitches. Reliever Carlos Marmol, who has been one of the most reliable all season, then served up a home run to Mark Reynolds, and the Cubs eventually lost, 3-1.
"The kid we brought in had a 23-inning scoreless streak," Piniella said of Marmol. "Everybody's wanted me to close with this guy, and all of a sudden I bring him in the seventh inning of a ballgame, and nobody wants him in there? C'mon. The reason we lost that ballgame was we didn't take advantage of opportunities.
"If I'm going to lose the ballgame, like we did last night, I'd rather lose it with my bullpen than my starting pitcher, and then have [Zambrano] come back on three days' rest and having to win on Sunday. People don't understand that part of it."
Zambrano understood the game plan. Piniella's critics didn't, and the panic level was high in Wrigleyville.
"To bring back memories of the [billy] goat and 99 years of frustration because I removed the starting pitcher in the sixth inning, I think it's getting a little crazy," Piniella said.
The goat is part of Cubs' lore. The condensed story is that the team has been cursed since a fan was denied access to Wrigley Field with his goat. The Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908.
"You're going to get criticized in this business," Piniella said. "I'm going to do what I think is best. This wasn't gut. This was thought out. Sometimes the best plans just don't go the way you expect. If everybody was perfect, you wouldn't have to play these games."
So, if it's the seventh inning in Game 2, would Piniella call upon Marmol again?
"He's ready to go," Piniella said. "How many people here wanted me to close him? Now, I bring him in in the seventh inning of a ballgame, and it's like the billy goat came out of the grave and what's his name, [former Cubs manager Leo] Durocher turned over in his grave and everything else. For God's sake -- I think there's a little over-reaction to this.
"I'm going to do what I have to do and do it as well as I possibly can. When it was over and done, I felt bad that we lost, but I would've done the same thing."
Air time: A TV commercial airing during the postseason shows Piniella arguing with an umpire, throwing a base, and then walking off drinking a bottle of water. While the Cubs manager was talking to beat writers Thursday, the commercial came on during the New York Yankees-Cleveland Indians game, and the Cubs players saw it in the clubhouse.
"That's what I needed last night was some water," Piniella said about his postgame session with the media, which was a little tense.
Ryan Dempster poked his head into Piniella's office.
"That's good [stuff] right there," Dempster said.
Other players hollered to Piniella from the clubhouse, laughing.
"That was beautiful," another player said.
Kids can play: The Cubs have four rookies on the 25-man playoff roster in Kevin Hart, Geovany Soto, Felix Pie and Mike Fontenot. Last year, the St. Louis Cardinals had five rookies appear in the postseason. The 2005 Atlanta Braves used eight.
When the Cubs reached the postseason in 1998, Kerry Wood was a rookie. In 1989, they had five: Dwight Smith, Jerome Walton, Joe Girardi, Rick Wrona and Steve Wilson. The Cubs also had five rookies on a playoff roster three other times. In 1945, the rookies included Cy Block, Eddie Sauer, Frank Secory, Heinz Becker and Paul Gillespie. In 1935, the list was Fabian Kowalik, Ken O'Dea, Phil Cavarretta, Roy Henshaw and Walter Stephenson; and in 1932, Billy Herman, Bud Tinning, Frank Demaree, Marv Gudat and Stan Hack were all rookies.
"I told Rich Hill last night, look at all the [Iowa Cubs] who are in the playoffs this year," Fontenot said of the Triple-A team's alum. "It's remarkable that we were all in Iowa last year, and now we're together this year in October playing in the playoffs trying to get to the World Series."
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Step by step: Angel Guzman has a two-inch scar on his right elbow from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, which he had Sept. 6. The Cubs' highly touted pitching prospect, who is rehabbing in Mesa, Ariz., at the Cubs' facility, said it was the right decision.
"The good sign now is that when I wake up, I don't have any soreness," Guzman said Thursday.
He didn't go to Game 1 of the NLDS on Wednesday because he is disappointed in how his season turned out. The right-hander was projected as possibly starting for the Cubs in '07.
"I was feeling bad -- not being eligible to play and help my teammates," Guzman said.
However, he did talk to Zambrano after Wednesday's game and didn't fault Marmol at all.
"With pitch selection, you never know," Guzman said. "When you're on the mound, you make the decision that's best for you. If you make a mistake, you learn from that."
Guzman will spend most of the offseason in Arizona to rehab, and Dr. James Andrews, who did the surgery, projected Guzman could be back in June or July.
He's now had shoulder surgery in 2003, and surgery on his right elbow on Sept. 6, 2007. Both years, the Cubs went to the playoffs. Will he volunteer for next year?
"No, no, no," Guzman said.
Quote of the day: "People say it's a playoff atmosphere here [at Chase Field]. It's been this way at Wrigley since I've been there." -- Hart
Extra bases: The Cubs will not work out on Friday, mainly because the team charter is not scheduled to arrive in Chicago until early in the morning. ... Soto started again in Game 2, and Piniella said he'll play it by ear as to whether he stays with Soto or goes with veteran catcher Jason Kendall. ... Piniella chose not to have Zambrano bunt in the fifth inning of Game 1 with a runner on second. "Zambrano swings the bat better than he bunts -- it's true," Piniella said. ... Jason Marquis and Hill threw their side sessions on Thursday. ... Cubs fans who couldn't get tickets to Chase Field for the NLDS games against the Diamondbacks were able to watch the games on the big screen at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, the team's Spring Training home ballpark. ... Cubs bench coach Alan Trammell and D-backs coach Kirk Gibson, both former Detroit Tigers, posed for a photo behind home plate Thursday.
On deck: The series shifts to Wrigley Field for Game 3 on Saturday, and Hill (11-8, 3.92 ERA) will face Arizona's Livan Hernandez (11-11, 4.93 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 5:07 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast on TBS and WGN Radio.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.